There is a growing demand for highly skilled technical staff in the UK’s relatively buoyant food and drink industry
With an annual turnover of around £70bn the food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. Employing more than 500,000 people, enjoying continued growth since 2009 and recently breaking through the £10bn export barrier the sector has, to some extent, defied the downturn.
But, according to many in the industry, if it is to continue to grow and compete, the sector must embrace ever-increasing levels of sophistication. And the skills of engineers from a range of disciples will be key to helping it achieve this.
Also talking at the event, Jonathan Cooper, NSA’s skills consultant for engineering maintenance, argued that maintenance skills will be particularly important. ’Engineering maintenance is vital to achieving and maintaining efficient performance on the shop floor,’ he said, ’yet engineering skills are in short supply.’
Coleshill agreed that the increasing levels of automation, and the use of advanced robotics are calling for skills not traditionally associated with the sector. ’We’re finding that we just don’t have the skill level within the industry,’ she said, ’and if we do we’re struggling with people who are potentially going to be retiring.’
According to Coleshill there are a number of reasons engineers should consider joining the food and drink sector, not least the sector’s economic staying power. But beyond this is the commercially pressing need to innovate. ’For food and drink manufacturers to remain competitive we’ve got to constantly look at new ways of doing things and for anyone with any interest in R&D and innovation that ’s quite exciting,’ she said.