FDF Apprenticeship Pledge

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) announced a pledge to treble apprenticeships in the food and drink industry and grow value-added food and drink exports by a third by 2020 in December 2015.

Announced at FDF's President's Reception 2015, the new pledge will see the total apprenticeship workforce in the sector increase from 1% to 3% against a 2013/14 baseline. The target builds on an existing pledge to increase the number of higher-level apprenticeships by 20% by 2017 and other sector-wide initiatives to address a looming skills shortage.

Why have we launched this pledge?

Our sector is currently relying on an ageing workforce to support growth and we must secure a sufficient pipeline of young people that could potentially be engineers, team leaders or managers for the future. Apprenticeships are also an important tool to 'grow our own' as we seek to become less reliant on migrant workers (who represent 20% of our workforce).

In March 2015, we launched a pledge to increase the number of technical apprenticeships by 20% in 2017.

This pledge highlighted the importance of cross-sector and Government collaboration to tackle the barriers of growing high level apprenticeships.

Defra Minister George Eustice MP congratulated FDF members for the industry's commitment to invest in level 3 apprenticeships during a visit to the FDF-run food industry at the Big Bang UK Young Science and Engineers Fair 2015.

In August 2011, FDF pledged to double the number of apprenticeships available in the food and drink manufacturing sector in England and Scotland by the end of 2012. We did this because we will need to replace 40% of our current workforce by 2020 due to employees entering retirement or leaving the industry.

FDF smashed our target to double. From August 2011 to December 2012 the number of Apprenticeships in the sector rose from 1,711 to 7,535. This quadrupling of Apprenticeship starts highlighted the importance of Apprenticeships as a fantastic way of attracting talent and upskilling existing employees for the future, as well as bringing many benefits to businesses including increased productivity, improved competitiveness and a motivated workforce.

Since then FDF has been working with food and drink manufacturers, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Defra and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) as part of the Apprenticeship Trailblazer programme to develop gold industry standards for apprenticeship in our sector.

Apprenticeship Trailblazers

In October 2013, food and drink manufacturing was confirmed as one of the eight sectors to lead Apprenticeship reform by developing ground-breaking new standards for Food and Drink Maintenance Engineers that will form the basis for Apprenticeships in the future.

FDF has been working with food and drink manufacturers, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Defra and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSA) as part of the Apprenticeship Trailblazer programme.

What are Apprenticeship Trailblazers?

A new Trailblazer standard for Mechanical and Multi-skilled Food and Drink Maintenance Engineers has already been developed as part of the pilot scheme and is supported by: Arla Foods, Dairy Crest, First Milk, Fosters Bakery, Haribo, Mars, McCain Foods, Mondelez International, Muller Dairy, Nestlé, Premier Foods, Thorntons and Unilever.

This standard approved by Government and will be implemented from September 2016.

  • Food & Drink Operations, Production & Processing

    This is supported by the following companies: Arla, Branston, Britvic, Dairy UK, Food and Drink Federation, Finlays, George's Tradition, Haribo, KP Foods, McCain, MMUK, Manor Fresh, Mondelez, Nestlé, Premier, Produce World, Total Fresh and 2 Sisters Food Group Ltd

  • Food & Drink Quality Assurance, Production Development & Food Science

    This is supported by the following companies: Arla, Big Bear Confectionery, Branston, Finlays, Greencore, Haribo, KP Snacks, Manor Fresh, McCain, Mondelez, Moy Park, MMUK, Nestlé UK, Pork Farms, Premier, Produce World, S&A Foods, Total Fresh and 2 Sisters Food Group

  • Bakery

    This is supported by the following companies: Bakkavor, Butt Foods, Cooplands, Dunn's Bakery, The Worshipful Company of Bakers, Fosters Bakery (Staincross) Ltd, Haywood and Padgett, Haydens Bakery, Holme Made Bakery, Whites Bakery and 2 Sisters Food Group

If any members would like to be involved please contact caroline.keohane@fdf.org.uk for more information.

Advice for employers wanting to take on Apprentices

  1. Contact the National Skills Academy for food and drink (NSA) on 0845 644 0558 where your enquiry will be recorded including details such as company size; sub-sector e.g. meat, chilled, confectionery; and how many apprenticeships you wish to offer etc.
  2. Your enquiry will be forwarded onto a trained NSA skills consultant who will visit you in person to discuss the options available to you e.g. delivery in-house or through an external training provider. If your company employs more than 250 people, the National Apprenticeship Service will accompany the NSA on a joint visit.
  3. Based on an assessment of your business' needs, the NSA will then approach training providers on your behalf and source the right one for you.
  4. Proposals from the best training providers will be collated and sent to you for approval.

What are the benefits to employers in taking on Apprentices?

Apprenticeships are Government-backed, work-based training programmes specifically tailored to meet the skills needs of employers. By FDF working in partnership with the National Skills Academy for food and drink and the National Apprenticeship Service, you can benefit from:

  • reduced administrative burden as you are supported through the process of developing and implementing an apprenticeship programme;
  • optimised funding stream ensuring you have access to the maximum available funding enabling you to upskill your workforce at all ages and levels[1];
  • high quality training providers that have been hand-picked to meet your needs;
  • central measurement undertaken which will provide us with credibility as we celebrate our success and launch a PR campaign.
  • free service to advertise your apprenticeship vacancies through the National Apprenticeship Service website


[1] The Government fully funds apprenticeships for 16-18 year olds and provides 50% co-funding for 19 years of age and over. For ages 25 and over, the funding is reduced to 40%. Please note that government funding goes directly to training providers.

More Information

Last reviewed: 03 May 2016