Fiona Kendrick has announced a pledge to treble apprenticeships in the food and drink industry and grow value-added exports a third by 2020.

The president of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and chief executive and chairman of Nestlé UK and Ireland made her announcement at the FDF’s annual President’s Reception.

It will see the apprenticeship workforce in the sector rise from 1% to 3% in the sector against a 2013/14 baseline and builds on previous pledges to build the number of high-level apprentices to 20% by 2017 and tackle the danger of a future skills shortage. Meanwhile, the export target would see value-added food and drink exports hit a total value of £6bn by 2020.

Kendrick said: “Increasing the number of apprenticeships and growing exports are key ambitions for our industry. We have made excellent progress against each of our strategic priorities this year and our new pledge is a significant commitment from Britain’s largest manufacturing sector to help drive up British productivity and economic growth.”

Guests of honour

The event was attended MPs, manufacturers and other stakeholders, including guests of honour Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Liz Truss, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Javid highlighted next year’s launch of the Great British Food Unit, part of Defra’s five-year Great British Food campaign which aims to boost exports, increase the number of protected products and support investment in skills, saying: “Food and drink is exciting in many ways and it’s a hugely important industry to our economy. That is why I want to make sure as a government that we’re doing everything we possibly can to support it.”

Meanwhile, Truss said: “We want food and farming to be a top destination for high-flying graduates, as prestigious as medicine, as fun and stimulating as the gaming industry and as cutting-edge as London’s Tech City. By championing the latest technology, building skills and creating jobs and apprenticeships we will create a stronger brand for British food and drink that will see more of our quality produce enjoyed at home and exported around the globe.

“We want to encourage even more young people to launch careers in our booming food and drinks industry and rise to the sector’s new challenges. I welcome this pledge to treble apprenticeships which matches our commitment to triple the number of food and farming apprenticeships.”