New figures chart future shape of UK food industry jobs as appetite for industry careers grows

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 09:01

UK food manufacturing will see a significant increase in managerial, professional and technically skilled vacancies alongside continued growth in openings for front line production staff according to new labour market analysis released today by food industry skills body, the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink.

“As current workers retire, the industry needs to recruit more than 49,000 new skilled professionals and managers along with 27,000 production staff by 2022,” said Academy CEO Justine Fosh.

“That’s great news for the next generation of talent and puts the food industry firmly on the map as a career destination of choice for those studying toward a rewarding job in a dynamic and highly innovative sector that’s home to some of the UK’s best known brands.

“The renewed emphasis on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) within the education system is welcome as it’s these areas that open the door to a well-paid, secure future in food along with industry approved vocational training and high-quality Apprenticeships,” she added.

Overall, the industry predicts 109,000 new staff will be required over the next ten years to replace retiring staff - even though the total number of people employed in the sector will continue to dip as a result of increasing automation, new technology and efficiency gains.

The forecast is down from the 170,000 vacancies which the Academy predicted in 2012 after new data trends highlighted the strength of continued industry employment demand during and after the recession.

“While the industry contracted slightly and many older workers left, labour demand recovered quickly compared to other sectors and the strong bounce back had the effect of pulling employment opportunities forward and  spotlighting the wide variety of available jobs the sector,” said Fosh.

Along with recessionary pressures, Fosh credited continuing industry efforts such as the website, for making the sector a more attractive job destination, addressing outdated perceptions of food manufacturing careers and raising the traditionally low profile of the sector among job hunters. Other factors included a trebling of Apprenticeship openings and more guidance for school leavers, students and parents on study choices leading into the industry.

Fosh warned however, that firms would continue to have to look to overseas nationals if the recent surge of interest from UK job hunters subsided or they didn’t have the right skill base.

The Academy’s analysis shows the number of non-UK nationals employed in food manufacturing has risen from 26 per cent in 2010 to 36 per cent today.

“There’s still much to be done to ensure the profile of the industry among the next generation remains high and that they have the right skills, the right attitudes and the right technical and professional qualifications to be eligible to fill future vacancies when they enter the labour market,” said Fosh.

“The expected future recruitment numbers to 2022 remain very significant in terms of future UK employment opportunity. Food industry employment performance in recession again underlines the relative job security of the sector while levels of forecast demand in higher paid managerial and technical roles show a job in food is a job with prospects.

“Our latest analysis confirms food manufacturing and processing will not only continue to be the UK’s largest manufacturing industry but a vitally important contributor to the UK economy providing greater employment opportunity than other sector,” she added.

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