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Improve the food and drink sector skills council. Food and drink chiefs back skills drive
Article Type: Food facts From: Nutrition
Leading industry figures have issued a rallying cry to the UK's food and drinks manufacturers, calling on them to lend their full support to the drive to improve skills across the sector's workforce. Delegates attending the Taking On The World skills conference hosted by Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, heard from a number of high-profile employers who took to the stand urging their peers to pull together on training reforms in a bid to make the UK industry the most competitive in the world.
Sir John Sunderland, chairman of Cadbury Schweppes, told the audience in York that the £74 billion industry, the only manufacturing sector in the UK still growing, would need an additional 118,000 skilled workers by 2014 just retain its position behind Canada as the world's second most competitive food and drink producer. He argued that investment in skills is one of the most important factors in any business building long-term sustainability. "The weight and speed of competition and the effects of a global labour market mean that staff at every level across the UK food and drink industry need to work smarter, know more and apply themselves better", said Sir John. "Our people, and our businesses, have to stay one step ahead of China, Europe and the USA on the skills ladder". He added that more needed to be done to attract skilled people into the industry and that employers must make their voice heard in the education system to ensure future employees come equipped with relevant skills. He praised the work Improve was doing in this area, particularly in getting school children involved in food and drink projects through projects like the Schools Challenge and the leading role it is playing in developing the new Diploma in Manufacturing and Product Design aimed at 14-19 year olds.
Jack Matthews, chief executive of Improve, said he felt the conference had reaffirmed the shared vision to make the UK food and drink manufacturing sector the world leader in terms of skills and productivity. "What this event has proved is that we are all pulling in the same direction", he said. "It has allowed us to reflect on what we have achieved so far but more importantly to focus on where we need to be going next in order to reach the challenging targets we have set".