Food and drink manufacturers are being encouraged to invest in the future of young talent by supporting a new qualification.

The Diploma in Manufacturing and Product Design has been developed by five skills councils representing manufacturing employers in the UK, including Improve.

The diploma, to be launched in September 2009, will be available to 14 to 19 year-olds in 27 areas across England. It will be delivered by an approved consortia of schools, colleges and employers and available at foundation, higher and advanced levels, split into three different components.

A 10-day period of work experience is also suggested, to allow students to apply their classroom-learnt skills to a real working environment.

“Manufacturers can get involved in all sorts of ways, regardless of their size,” explained Helen King, from sector skills council Improve. “Providing work experience placements would be of real benefit, but there are other options for companies that don’t have the time or resources for that level of commitment.”

From September this year, new consortia are being invited to apply to deliver the qualification from 2010.