Opening of a consultation to meet the skills needs of the agri-food sector

A new draft strategy to meet the skills needs of the horticulture and food sector has been published by Growing Kent & Medway and is now open for consultation.

Producers, processors, manufacturers, distributors and technology companies across the food and beverage value chain are encouraged to provide feedback on the Workforce 2030 strategy. The report’s recommendations will be implemented to address the skills challenges that the sector will face from autumn 2022.

Steve Matthews, Growing Kent, and Medway’s skills champion, who researched the issues with companies in the sector and developed the strategy, said: “Our research confirms that a multi-pronged approach is needed to meet future needs. in skills of an increasingly high-tech and innovative sector.”

“Collaboration between industry and higher education is essential to help highlight the exciting career paths available and to develop appropriate training and apprenticeship programs to improve the skills of the workforce of tomorrow.”

Dr Nikki Harrison, Program Director, Growing Kent & Medway, said: “The strategy recognizes two key factors. The sector is consolidating, with highly innovative larger-scale companies and a larger workforce. These companies have a greater power of attraction for new recruits, sophisticated loyalty programs, and can offer attractive career paths.

“The food market is also driven by cost pressure and high quality requirements. Automation and new technologies are growing in importance to balance these competing needs, requiring new skills across the workforce.

Tom Hulme, Director of AC Hulme & Sons, a mixed farm operating in East Kent since 1946, said: “Access to a skilled and ready-to-work workforce is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities facing our sector. I would encourage businesses across the supply chain to have their say on this important consultation. This is an opportunity to put in place practical support to ensure that our businesses are able to thrive, with the right skills and the right people.

The six main issues addressed by the Workforce 2030 strategy are:

  1. Workforce recruitment and retention
  2. Improve current curricula and qualification pathways
  3. Create new qualifications and sectoral training in engineering
  4. Industry-tailored leadership and management training programs
  5. Support innovation in areas such as automation, sustainability and quality
  6. Improve communication and engagement between employers, education and individuals

You can read the Workforce 2030 Strategy at growkentandmedway.com/skills. Companies are invited to submit their comments through a online survey or attend a virtual chat session the following days.

  • Monday July 18, 12-2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 17, 8:30-9:30 a.m.
  • Tuesday, September 13, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

The consultation ends on September 13, 2022.

The strategy was developed through a process of research and consultation with land and food businesses, universities, higher education institutions and other key stakeholders. The work also informed the Local skills improvement planled by Kent Invicta Chamber, and future Kent and Medway Workforce Skills Evidence Action Plan.

For more information:
Growth of Kent and the Medway
www.growthkentandmedway.com