UK skills shortage threatens food and drink manufacturing competitiveness

UK skills shortage threatens food and drink manufacturing competitiveness

A major new survey by specialist recruitment consultancy JAM has revealed widespread concerns that a skills shortage could potentially leave the UK lagging behind international rivals in food and drink manufacturing.

The report, which draws on the opinions of more than 750 food and drink manufacturing professionals, highlights a shortage of talented candidates that is threatening to the industry’s future competitiveness.

The USA was cited as the biggest international rival by half of respondents and there are worries it could claim a monopoly on the market if UK manufacturers fail to plug the skills gap.

Currently, 46 per cent of respondents claim their company is struggling to find candidates with high level skills, with Shift Managers and Product Development Specialists highlighted as particularly scarce. A similar number (45 per cent) believe that young people emerging from education without the necessary skills for work will pose the greatest risk to the sector in the next 10 years.

How staff are remunerated for their skills and experience is also a cause for contention, with 65 per cent claiming that their salary is not indicative of their abilities. Over half (52 per cent) of the professionals surveyed earn a salary of less than £19,999, and not one respondent took home more than £69,999.

When questioned about attracting new talent, 64 per cent believe that the industry itself is not doing enough to raise awareness of career opportunities.

A further two thirds felt that the Government should do more to tackle the skills shortage, with the provision of funding for training in manufacturing subjects and businesses offering graduate and apprenticeship schemes being the most popular means of support.

If additional financial aid from the Government was forthcoming, 56 per cent state that their company would be more likely to take on apprentices.

Samantha Tildsley, Principal Account Manager at JAM Recruitment, said: “High profile acquisitions of British food and drink manufacturers such as the take-over of Cadbury by US-based Kraft Foods last year will be fresh in the minds of many, so it’s little surprise that our respondents expressed concern at how the UK is performing against international competitors.

“This unease is heightened by apprehension over the sector’s ability to attract new talent. Employers need to increase their efforts in raising awareness of opportunities among young people and look to offer competitive remuneration to ensure the skills of their future workforce are up to scratch.

“While change does need to be driven from within, it is also made apparent that the food and drink industry should not have to bear this cross alone; the Government should see this as an opportunity to support British businesses by incentivising them to invest in training and apprenticeships.”

JAM Recruitment provides specialist skills to the engineering and manufacturing industry with particular focus on the UK defence, automotive, aerospace energy, scientific and medical, food and drink, electronics and software, oil and gas and professional services sectors.

Holly Aston