MPs George Eustice and Nadhim Zahawi spoke at the Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF’s) stand at the Big Bang UK Scientist and Engineers Fair in Birmingham last week.

At the fair, representatives from well-known UK food and drink companies came together to educate and inspire students to consider careers in food and drink manufacturing.

Defra minister of state George Eustice, and the prime minister’s apprenticeships advisor, Nadhim Zahawi, visited the FDF stand and spoke with apprentices and their colleagues about careers in the industry.

Eustice said: “Food manufacturing is a bigger industry than cars and aerospace combined, and food and farming generates over £100 billion for our growing economy. Ensuring our food businesses can thrive is central to the government’s long-term economic plan.

“There are lots of opportunities for young people in this industry, and I want the food sector to be a top destination for high-flying graduates and apprentices. We are already seeing more skilled workers enter the industry – rising faster than other areas of manufacturing.”

Zahawi agreed: “Apprenticeships are the best way to meet the growing skills need in the food and drink manufacturing sector; as well as offering an incredible opportunity to earn a wage, gain real work experience, develop skills and earn a qualification.

“I really welcome the fact that employers from this industry are leading the charge and working together to deliver the apprenticeship growth that both the sector and the country need. The government is committed to trebling the number of apprenticeships in this industry, and it’s great to see these opportunities are being showcased to the next generation.”

Serious skills shortage

Angela Coleshill, competitiveness director at the FDF, said: “Britain’s food and drink industry – the largest manufacturing sector - faces a serious skills shortage.

“There is no substitute for hearing about food industry careers first-hand from apprentices, managers and directors in a range of fields – from engineering and technology-related roles to science, research and marketing.”

The FDF recently pledged to treble the total apprenticeship workforce in the sector by 2020.