Report highlights labour skills shortage

A new publication from Quality Meat Scotland highlights the looming labour and skills crisis facing the Scottish meat industry.

The publication, The Scottish Meat Industry: Addressing Skills Needs, is being sent to all Scottish MSPs this month. Prepared by organisations from across the whole industry, the new booklet highlights the particular challenges of ensuring a supply of well-trained staff to replace an ageing workforce.

More than 10,500 people are directly employed by around 1,000 meat processing companies and retail butchers. With an average staff age of 44, many of the businesses are reporting concerns about an ageing workforce, a situation which is being compounded by difficulties in recruiting trainees.

Andy McGowan, industry development manager for QMS, said: "The food and drink industry is generally not promoted in schools to the extent that it should be, given its importance to the Scottish economy.

"There is a need to adopt an awareness programme to ensure that young people are aware of the key roles of food technicians and scientists, skilled managers and process engineers to deliver innovation, premiumisation and consumer and market trend awareness."

He continued: "The food and drink industry has the potential to provide a range of rewarding careers, based on developing skills and knowledge in a highly competitive environment."

The report highlights the importance of vocational, on-the-job training for existing meat workers, with proper recognition.

One of the main problems in obtaining support for training initiatives is that most funding and apprenticeship programmes are aimed at 16- to 19-year-olds and is therefore unavailable to the majority of those in the meat sector.

McGowan said: "A substantial number of employees within the industry have qualifications below Level 2. This reflects the fact that company staff currently deliver the vast majority of training within the industry, but there is no mechanism for officially recognising this."

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