British food and drink manufacturing is facing a staggering skills gap, with 170,000 vacancies needing to be filled between 2010 and 2020. Given the fast-paced nature of the food and drink industry, it is crucial that businesses do as much as they can to nurture their employees and ensure success in the future. Young people today have more choice than ever when it comes to choosing a career so ensuring businesses play a part in their decision-making process is key to tackling the shortage.
Provide young people with first-hand insight
In order to raise awareness about the industry, business leaders ought to consider training courses and joint initiatives with local education partners. It is pivotal that throughout education students are aware of the opportunities available and are working hard to be involved in a career that they feel passionately about. Providing young people with first-hand insight to the industry will not only help them make informed decisions but will also shape them into future leaders dedicated to affecting positive change. For example, at William Jackson Food Group, we work with local education partners, encouraging our colleagues to talk to young people about the varied careers on offer in the food industry, we help them with their CVs and work experience, and have our own in-house Graduate Development schemes.
Invest in training opportunities for existing staff
Without enough skilled workers, businesses will face real challenges. Keeping current workforce engaged and up to speed with new technologies is therefore vital to long-term success. Within the Group, our partnership with Hull University Business School offers selected colleagues a unique two-week training programme to develop their skillset and broaden their knowledge of the six-generation family business. As well as academic lectures, individuals also take part in sessions focused on business strategy, the dynamics of the food industry and team building exercises. In the second week of the course, participants put into practice the skills and knowledge gained and deliver presentations about business strategy to Board members.
In addition to encouraging young people to choose a career in the food industry to reduce the skills gap, it’s vital we plan for the next generation of business leaders too. Training is key, but so is an investment of time from current leaders who can share their knowledge and learnings to influence and shape the workforce of tomorrow and help the business achieve long-term success.
By Dickie Donovan, HR Director, William Jackson Food Group