So what does this mean for businesses? Here at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), we are the voice of the UK food and drink industry and represent companies of all sizes. Our membership reflects the diversity of the country's biggest manufacturing sector, accounting for 15% of UK manufacturing and directly employing around 430,000 people. In challenging economic times, FDF's focus on helping its members to be more competitive globally has never been more important. This is why we welcome functional skills, to help equip young people with the practical skills and knowledge needed to hit the ground running when pursuing a career in our industry. They are particularly important for small to medium-sized businesses that do not have the training budgets of large organisations yet still require well rounded employees that can help them to compete globally.
Although all education options will include the teaching of functional skills, students who take an apprenticeship, diploma or separate functional skills qualification will be specifically tested in this area. This provides a guarantee for employers that a young person who has taken one of these routes has the level of functionality demanded by today's employers for them to be effective in the workplace.
The food and drink sector's future sustainability is highly dependent on the skills of its staff and their ability to innovate. Changing consumer demand, rapid changes in technology and new product development mean that to remain competitive, the sector must improve its productivity and performance. This is heavily reliant on the capability of its workforce and the ability to attract talent for the future. Despite the economic downturn there is an ever-increasing demand for food products. We are a growth sector in a truly global sense and yet we have problems attracting recruits with the right skills.
I believe the important challenge is one of profile - encouraging people to view the food industry as a real opportunity to progress within an innovative sector. My role in the coming years will be about raising our profile as an employer of choice and ensuring that skills provision meets the new demands this will create. Individuals who possess functional skills qualifications will be particularly welcome as they will have the attitude and aptitude that will allow them to make a positive contribution to the work environment.
Our member companies are working hard to capture the imagination of young people to show them both how diverse a career in the food industry can be and the skills needed for success in that industry. Many of them already have strong links with schools and universities and want to become more proactive in educating future generations about the variety of interesting and rewarding careers available within the sector.
Functional skills will help to meet my vision for the food and drink industry and provide us with the recruits needed to achieve our ambitions. I welcome their introduction and urge other HR professionals to find out more about how changes to education will benefit their workforce.
Angela Coleshill is director of HR at the Food and Drink Federation
This article was first published on hrmagazine.co.uk