Food industry gets behind youth employment

Food industry leaders are uniting to tackle youth unemployment, with more than 100 food and grocery businesses pledging 12,000 training places for young unemployed people this year.

Businesses are to take on young people at more than 1,000 locations across Britain, it was revealed yesterday in Westminster.
Major meat processors and most of the major multiples will be offering young and unemployed people the opportunity to gain work experience in the food sector for up to one month during September, as part of IGD’s Feeding Britain’s Future skills week.

Although companies taking part are not obliged to keep people on after September, last year more than half of the young people involved in the scheme started permanent employment in the food industry.

Minister for business and education Matt Hancock called on more employers yesterday to sign up to IGD’s Feeding Britain’s Future scheme. He said: “I am emotionally connected to Feeding Britain’s Future. I am particularly excited to support it, because the central mission of my job and a lot of what we’re doing as the government is to make sure we can compete in the global marketplace.”

Hancock explained that, not only was it an important for the UK to have the right people with the right skills in the food sector, but it was about every person in the country. “We cannot have, at the same time, youth unemployment and the skills shortages we are seeing, without preparing our young people to take on those jobs as they become available.”

He said it was the government’s and the industry’s responsibility to make sure we were not relying on people from overseas to fill vacancies. And he added that we need to ensure the education system is driving the skills system and helping to maintain the health of the food industry in the UK.   

Meanwhile chief executive of IGD Joanne Denney-Finch told that awareness needed to be raised about job prospects in the food industry. She said that Job Centre Plus had been pointing young unemployed people to the scheme and, once people got involved, they wanted to work in the food industry.

She said: “If you talk to many of them [food businesses] they have been doing similar initiatives [to this]. The benefit of IGD is we can wrap our arms around the entire chain – farming, wholesaling, retailing – and if you wrap arms around you get scale.”


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