Food Industry Passport Launched to Prevent Recruitment Crisis

Whilst the eyes of the world were focused on Parliament Square, for the announcement of a new UK Prime Minister, in the Terrace Pavilion, at the House of Commons, the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink launched the Food and Drink Industry Careers Passport.

An audience of MPs, Civil Servants and influential people from the world of Food and Drink manufacturing, with the biggest food and drink manufacturers in the UK and some of the biggest worldwide brands, as well as Government Minister Victoria Prentis, were gathered to hear the announcement and speak about their role in developing, trialling and pledging to support and endorse the Food and Drink Careers Passport.

The Food & Drink Careers Passport from the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink is a passport to all the essential knowledge needed for working in UK Food & Drink Manufacturing industry. Developed in partnership with major food & drink manufacturing businesses, the new Food & Drink Careers Passport from the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink (NSAFD) and the Food and drink Federation (FDF) is the complete package. It’s based around accessible online learning of all the core areas applicants need to work in the industry.

The aim of the passport is to speed up the onboarding process for food and drink business whilst at the same time giving a clear and recognised access route to individuals wanting to enter the food and drink sector. The passport provides them with the entry level qualifications all food and drink business need for new entrants to the sector.

Opening the launch event, NSAFD non-executive Director Peter Booth highlighted the strategic value of the Careers Passport scheme at a time of chronic labour shortages with some of the manufacturers in the room having over 500 live vacancies at any one time.

The Passport, accessed via online study, has been created with direct business involvement after further development of the NSAFD and FDF’s successful additional “wrap around” training for young job hunters on paid placement, in the food and drink industry, as part of the Government’s recent Kickstart scheme.

Speaking at the launch, NSAFD CEO Louise Cairns stated:

“We moved quickly to develop this Passport into a real employability tool and we now have almost 60 businesses not only pledging to recognise it as currency for recruitment but also guaranteeing an interview for an appropriate role to anyone that arrives on their doorstep with it”

The Food & Drink Careers Passport has already gained significant traction across the wider recruitment and employability landscape with support pledges and active involvement from colleges, training providers, charities, trade associations, employment support organisations and local councils.

In Wales, Welsh Government is funding a comprehensive nationwide Passport pilot which has to date seen almost 500 job hunters enroll in associated online study and has recently been extended into all six Welsh prisons as a pre-release route to sustainable employment. Plans are well underway to extend the pilot within Wales and across England with support form Welsh Government and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Representing Ornua Foods, Kate Taylor, spoke of her involvement in the Kickstart programme and how that, combined with the training provided through the Food and Drink Careers Passport, had helped Ornua recruit and train future talent from the local area. Kate then introduced Isaac Nixon to the podium to share his story. Isaac, who is now a highly valued permanent team member had joined Ornua through the Kickstart programme and was part of the pilot for the food and drink careers passport. Kate’s passion for the project and Isaac’s first-hand experience of Kickstart, the Careers Passport and the change that it had made to his life, his career and his self-belief brought more than a few tears to the eyes of to the assembled audience.

The Food and Drink Careers Passport is more than just a collection of qualifications and the NSAFD CEO, Louise Cairns, encouraged businesses of all shapes and sizes to show their commitment to the passport by making the Pledge “Pledging your company’s recognition of the value of the Food & Drink Passport represents collective industry action in encouraging an ever-wider pool of pre-accredited candidates for entry-level roles while promoting industry employment opportunity to eager talent.” The strategic aim of the Pledge is to improve perception and understanding of the food and drink industry as an exciting career of choice. Although not a mandatory part of the Pledge, organisations can donate Careers Passports to individuals looking to get into the sector.

As part of their commitment to the Food and Drink Manufacturing Sector, Occupational Awards Limited’s CEO, Jan Richardson-Wilde announced a £7,500 donation from OAL which will support 100 job hunters, who are unable to fund study themselves or are not currently being supported by an employability scheme.

In the surprise announcement Jan said:

“The prospect of helping 100 new entrants into the food and drink sector make their first steps into a exciting and rewarding career, is one that we cherish.” Then making reference to the skills gaps and recruitment challenges within the sector Jan went on to say “We want the food and drink industry to have excellent progression routes supported by high quality training and qualification packages, to enable smooth progression onto apprenticeships and other higher level courses… opening the door for your future talent and leaders of tomorrow.”

By Lee Reddington Head of partnership development, Occupational Awards