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Food and drink manufacturing employs 450,000 people across every region and nation of the country, making it the UK’s largest manufacturing sector. Our sector pays competitive salaries and offers excellent careers and opportunities to progress through a wide variety of roles across all skills levels.

This large, geographically spread workforce perfectly positions food and drink manufacturing to help the UK Government fulfil its levelling up agenda. However we have significant labour and skills gaps, preventing our sector from fulfilling its potential.

That is why the FDF is working with its members to remove barriers in the UK's skills system to make it work better for food and drink manufacturers and to support employers in the key areas including:

  • Monitoring and tackling labour shortages in the sector - and the role of domestic skills, migration and automation;
  • Promoting the benefits of Apprenticeships while seeking greater felxibility in the system, in particular the Levy;
  • Keeping up-to-date with employment law changes; and 
  • Raising awareness about the importance of workplace Equality, Diversity & Inclusion.

If you are interested in finding out more about careers and skills development in Scotland please visit the FDF Scotland website.


January People and Employment Roundup

National Apprenticeship Week (5-11 February)

The FDF is preparing our campaign for National Apprenticeship Week (5-11 February) and looking into potential Ministerial visits or engagement with local MPs for our members. If a ministerial / MP visit to your business is something of interest please get in touch as soon as possible. Additionally, we would love to hear about any NAW events or social media that you have planned so we can also share on our social media channels. Please get in touch with Tanya about any of the above.

Employment and Skills Forum meeting

Next week we will be sending out invitations to the next Employment and Skills Forum meeting, on Tuesday 12th March. The agenda will include the government response to the John Shropshire Independent Review on Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, the roundtable with Shadow Skills Minister Seema Malhotra, the latest updated regarding the Shortage Occupation List and recent announcements on immigration. The Chartered Institute of Management (CMI) will also be joining as guest speakers to talk about their Chartered Manager courses. More details will be circulated shortly and if you have any questions or would like to join the meeting please contact Tanya.

Advanced British Standard Consultation

Last Autumn, the Prime Minister announced plans to develop a new qualification framework, the Advanced British Standard (ABS) which will change the structure of 16-18 year old education by bringing A Levels and T Levels together. This 10 year plan to release a new qualification framework that combined academic and vocation training has been met with some resistance and it is likely to be a short-lived proposal depending upon the outcome of the general election. However, December the DfE released a consultation on the ABS which we plan to respond to. We will send out a draft response in February for member input, however if you have any thoughts you wish to share in advance please contact Tanya.

November Roundup

CEC Report on Employers Standards

The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) has launched a new publication ‘From Outreach to Intake – Employer Standards for Careers Education’. This report also coincides with the formal release of the CEC Employer Standards framework, a new tool that will help raise the quality of business outreach with education. Over 360 employers have already evaluated themselves against the Employer Standards, and the report is based on these initial findings.

The report highlighted three insights into education outreach:

  1. High quality employer outreach works. It boosts recruitment and improves outcomes for young people.
  2. Some employers and industries are benefitting more. Outgoing and connected programmes are increasing student interest in sectors with shortages.
  3. The Standards are highlighting common challenges around support of the interview and application process and the engagement of parents/carers.


Higher and Degree Apprenticeships Recruitment Fair at Sheffield Hallam University

If you are considering recruiting an apprentice, join Sheffield Hallam University on Wednesday 29 November for their Higher and Degree Apprenticeship Recruitment Fair. 4:00pm - 6:30pm / Owen Building, S1 2LX.

Learn about over 30 apprenticeship programmes offered in various sectors. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet talented individuals looking to undertake a higher or degree apprenticeship and be given support from the SHU free recruitment service.

September People and Employment updates

Below are some updates of activity from over the summer and a request for feedback:

Skills Levy – Request for Feedback (by 14th September)

Preparations for the Chancellor’s next fiscal event – the Autumn Statement on 22 November – are gearing up, and we are looking for insights into how our members would spend their Apprenticeship Levy funds if reforms were made to allow for more flexible spending e.g. a Skills Challenge Fund.   We’re asking members to consider the following questions and send any thoughts to Tanya by EOD Thursday 14th September.

  • Are there particular modular or accredited training courses that you would wish to access with these funds if available? 
  • Would there be specific types of roles that would benefit most from these additional flexibility (i.e. process operators, engineers)?
  • How much of your levy funds do you estimate you would spend on training other than apprenticeships?


Employment and Skills Forum meeting

We will be convening the Employment and Skills Forum on Thursday 5th October, 14:00-16:00.  The discussion will focus on the recommendations of the Independent Review into Labour Shortages developing policy positions for the upcoming FDF Manifesto.  We will share papers in advance for members to review and will ask that you share the meeting details with colleagues who may be interested in policies relating to skills (apprenticeship levy reform, T levels, recognition of prior learning and SME support) and employment (immigration reform – skilled worker visa and graduate visas, future skills, productivity).

The draft agenda and meeting details will be circulated in the coming days.  If you would like more information about who should attend please contact Tanya.


MAC Shortage Occupation List update

Last week FDF joined a call with the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to discuss the Shortage Occupation List.  The MAC’s report will be published on Tuesday 3rd October, and the Government response isn’t expected until late Q1 2024. 

Additionally, the MAC will be publishing their Annual Report at the end of this year.  The report will be focusing on three key areas, looking at the related policies and effects of those policies on each:

  • Net Migration
  • International Students
  • Health & Social Care


FDF Q2 State of Industry Report

Last month FDF published our Q2 State of Industry Report.  The analysis includes evidence that in the last year, from July 2022, labour shortages have cost the industry an estimated £1.4bn, due to loss of output.  It also had found that 57 per cent of food manufacturers have vacancy rates of up to 5 per cent.  You can read the full report here.


Celebrating careers in our sector

FDF posted about the career opportunities available in our sector on LinkedIn to celebrate A Level and T Level results day.  We plan to share more case studies showing the diversity of roles and career progression available in our sector over the coming weeks – if you have stories you would like us to share please contact Tanya.


Applications open for the Accelerate Mentoring Programme

The FDF has partnered with Odgers Berndtson and Grant Thornton to create the Accelerate mentoring programme. The Accelerate mentoring programme is designed to promote and improve the gender balance at board level across the food and drink industry by supporting the accelerated development of female and non-binary talent. Now in its second year, applications are open for mentors and mentees until 28 July 2023. To apply, or for more details, contact accelerate@odgersberndtson.com.

National Manufacturing Day - 28 September 2023

The second National Manufacturing Day (NMD) will take place on Thursday 28 September 2023. The initiative is being led by the industry trade body Make UK, and the whole manufacturing sector is invited to participate. It will be a national celebration of UK manufacturing and a chance for manufacturers up and down the country to open their doors to showcase the amazing employment opportunities on offer across this vibrant sector.

FDF is working closely with Make UK and DEFRA to raise awareness of the NMD to encourage food and drink manufacturers to participate.  If you’re interested, all you need to do is contact tanya.barringer@fdf.org.uk to express your interest.  There are plenty of resources and ideas on the dedicated microsite www.nationalmanufacturingday.org, including a little video on ideas for putting on a day from Yunex Traffic and the RNLI who took part last year.

Call for key food and drink roles to be added to the UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL)

We have responded to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) consultation on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).  You can find our full response here, but our messaging included:

  • Food and drink manufacturers have worked hard to fill skills shortages and recruit and retain staff – from offering higher wages, investing in Apprenticeships, introducing more flexible shift patterns and introducing new training programmes such as the Food and Drink Careers Passport.
  • Food, drink and tobacco operatives and Process / Production Technicians should be included on the SOL.  Key roles no longer eligible for the SOL including engineering roles, food technologists and food scientists are still in shortage.
  • A regular 6-month review of the SOL is required to meet business needs
  • Call for a review of the costs of visas to make them globally competitive and ensure more businesses (particularly SMEs) can benefit from the points-based system.

The MAC will report its findings and recommendations to the Home Office in the autumn and we expect UK Government to set out changes to the SOL by the end of the year.

FDF calls on the LPC to proceed with caution on National Living Wage and Minimum Wage increases

We have responded to the Low Pay Commission (LPC) Consultation on National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW).  Our full response is available here and we raised the following:

  • Broad support for the proposed increase in the NLW in April 2024 between £10.90 and £11.43 (with a central estimate of £11.16) but the LPC should proceed with caution to avoid excessive cost burdens for businesses.
  • Support the LPC’s proposal to lower the NLW age threshold to 21 in April 2024 but to maintain some flexibility with the Apprentice Rate for SMEs – allowing more young people to build up their experience within the business.
  • Support the role of an independent LPC that provides evidence-based recommendations regarding NLW and NMW rates to government, setting out the future direction of travel.

The FDF will be giving oral evidence to the Low Pay Commission on next Thursday (13th July) and we expect the UK Government to make its decision on final rates for next year in late autumn.

Related topics

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Career resources

Many of our members engage with a number of different careers-focused initiatives nationally or in their local area. If you are looking to start engaging in this area, or expand the work you are doing, the FDF can help guide you through the process.


Apprenticeships and Technical Education

Food and drink manufacturing employs 456,000 people across every region and nation of the country, making it the UK's largest manufacturing sector.

eu settlement - passport

EU settlement scheme and immigration

The FDF is supporting our members to stay informed on the latest changes to the new UK immigration system. This includes guidance on EU Settled Status for employees.

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Inclusion and diversity

The FDF is working with members to improve the state of inclusion and diversity in the food and drink manufacturing sector.


National living wage

Maintaining a competitive employment offer and ensuring compliant practice is important for our members. The FDF will help you understand the current landscape and push for your concerns to be heard.

occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety

Keep up to date with the latest HSE insights and information to help keep your workforce safe and your workplace compliant.

Report: Establishing the labour availability issues of the UK Food and Drink Sector

27 August 2021

The FDF in partnership with the NFU and a number of other food chain organisations has published a new report on Establishing the labour availability issues of the UK Food and Drink Sector.

Read more

Report: Food and Drink Inclusion and Diversity Report 2021

21 July 2021

Embodying the principles of inclusion and diversity has shown to enhance a company’s reputation, increase its talent pool when recruiting and improve productivity, innovation and decision making.

Read more

Report: Feeding the Future: Working together to build the National Food Strategy

08 October 2021

The Food and Drink Sector Council offers food chain solutions as part of the industry’s contribution to the UK Government’s forthcoming National Food Strategy.

Read more