Skills and knowledge - industry driver

A skilled, knowledgeable workforce is essential to deliver safe, good quality nutritious food in a sustainable manner. The food industry faces many challenges such as a shortage of skilled operatives, and increasingly fewer people with visibility of the wider industry and its relationship with regulatory bodies. Better communication within industry and between industry and external stakeholders will help to resolve these issues.

Fundamental needs

  • Brexit has led to a loss of skilled and knowledgeable people across the industry. There are also large knowledge gaps surrounding the specific impact of Brexit on legislation and guidance. There is a need for recruitment from the EU, and a need for guidance on how the new regulatory landscape affects the food industry. There is also a need for better food industry representation during the drafting of any new legislation.
  • Consumers require knowledge of the food industry to understand the complexities within it. Better knowledge will lead to a more informed debate over formulation and processing of food products. There is a need for clear communication to the consumer of the challenges facing the industry and the methods used to address those challenges. This should be done via the mass media.
  • Guidance on how to deal with waste products from production in the most sustainable manner is required, as well as guidance for consumers on how to minimise domestic waste.
  • Better communication between industry and legislators is required to inform both parties when guidance and legislation is being produced. There is also a need for clear guidance on the differences between different countries or legislative areas and the impact of those differences on the food industry.
  • There is a need for more skilled people to follow a career in the food industry. This can be addressed through better promotion of the industry as a whole, as well as increased collaboration between food companies and Academia. Promotion of the food industry as a stimulating and rewarding career pathway is also essential.
  • As the food industry becomes more reliant on digital solutions during production, distribution and retail, there is a need for people and syatems that can integrate the data produced. Meaningful integration of the food supply chain data will lead to more predictable production and better traceability. It will also have a positive impact on sustainability. New technologies for production and processing must be able to integrate into this digital architecture.

Emerging needs

  • The industry is currently losing talent, and new people are not in great enough abundance to fill the gaps. There is a need to actively encourage school leavers to work in the food industry, and to promote it as a fulfilling career path.
  • As legislation evolves and changes, the food industry needs to respond. Recent topics discussed included: EU consultation regarding ready-to-eat foods; Divergence from EU2073 post-Brexit; Precautionary allergen labelling; Eco-labelling; The labelling implications arising from sudden reformulations caused by shortages of ingredients; Divergence between the UK and EU on acrylamide legislation.
  • No and low alcohol products are increasingly popular. There is a need to clarify if the UK is to follow the US and EU in defining a drink containing a maximum of 0.5% alcohol as 'alcohol-free'.
  • Recruitment and retention of staff remains a challenge. There is a smaller pool of available labour, and consequently wage competition is making retention a challenge as well. There is a need to retain workers, and a need to train recent recruits. Training needs will change as recruitment drives result in recruits with less acomplished academic credentials than before.
  • Training has changed due to the use of remote technology. The challenge is to drive engagement with the training in people who are not physically present for it. There is also the challenge of persuading line-managers to assign the same priority to training as they do to more day to day tasks.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Campden BRI but are a summary of industrial feedback obtained from Campden BRI’s Member Interest Groups and interactions with government bodies and wider industry.

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