Continued access to a skilled workforce

For food and drink manufacturers and the wider agrifood supply chain

  • Food and drink manufacturers in the UK, like the rest of the agrifood supply chain, benefit from bringing in skilled labour from outside of the UK.
  • Around 27% of the UK's food and drink manufacturing workforce are non-UK EU nationals
    – almost 100,000 workers. They bring with them talent, spending power, flexibility and huge diversity. All are great for our industry and for the UK.
  • While we continue to take steps to develop home-grown talent through ambitious graduate and apprenticeship programmes, EU workers provide a highly valued solution to our skills gap.
  • Our sector's growth potential is undermined by a UK skills gap – we will need to recruit a further 130,000 workers as our ageing staff retire over the next decade.

FDF recommendations:

1. Reassurance for our workforce

EU workers in food and drink are highly valued and deserve reassurance in these very uncertain times. The UK food industry benefits from bringing in skilled labour from the EU and UK Government must confirm that EU nationals working and studying in the UK will be granted leave to remain. This will be important for the UK's negotiations with the EU due to the significant number of UK nationals that currently work elsewhere in the EU.

2. A new UK migration policy

Our industry will need 130,000 new skilled workers by 2024. FDF has already taken steps to ensure that the UK develops more homegrown talent, especially skilled food engineers and scientists, through ambitious graduate and apprenticeship programmes. However, workers from other EU Member States will continue to provide a highly valued solution in helping to close the skills gap.

Government must develop a new migration policy that ensures manufacturers have continued access to the workers we need to address a looming skills gap and the drive for future innovation to support the UK's competitive advantage. We believe the best way of achieving this is to retain the free movement of labour without disincentives for people coming to the UK to work. This would help to ensure continued rapid transfer of expert knowledge to the UK which helps to build the skills level in the UK's workforce.