Employers to discuss food scientist shortage

The UK's food and drink sector skills council is hosting an employer summit to discuss the shortage of food scientists and technologists in the sector.

Improve has joined forces with the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST) and Defra for the event, which will look at the implications of the shortage and give food and drink manufacturers the chance to discuss opportunities for collaborative action.

Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve, said: "It's vital that, as an industry, we take a more unified approach to finding a solution to this problem.

"There are pockets of activity, with some companies doing excellent work in finding innovative solutions to attract and retain scientists and technologists, but this proactive approach must become more widespread.

"It's no good for employers to think that it isn't their problem - it is a problem for the entire sector, and it is in the best interests of the industry to work together to find an effective solution."

Research from Improve has highlighted the fact that one-in-four food science and technologist roles in the industry remain unfilled - a shortage of more than 2,000 qualified professionals. With fewer young people choosing to study food science, and many of those that do ultimately pursuing careers in different sectors, it is a problem that is set to worsen unless urgent action is taken.

Matthews warned that the shortages pose a "serious threat" to the future of food and drink manufacturing in the UK.

"Companies already report skills gaps because of a lack of adequately trained new product development staff, which is hampering the efforts of many firms to boost profitability.

"If this trend continues we will no doubt see a decline in the UK food and drink manufacturing industry, as it loses its competitive edge to emerging overseas economies," he said.

The summit will take place at the Defra Innovation Centre in Reading on Wednesday 10 September, with sessions in the morning and afternoon. For further information, email improve@improveltd.co.uk.

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