In the South West, the industry employment trend was upward through the 1990s (growing by about 8,000 jobs 1991 - 1997) in contrast with the national, downward trend; but is forecast (by IER) to follow the national trend downwards over the next decade – an estimated employment trajectory of:
|36,000 jobs||44,000 jobs||36,000 jobs|
For the future, therefore, the overall forecast is for declines in all occupations in the sector but those declines will be of a different scale in different occupations.
These trends essentially reflect an industry which, in the South West as in the rest of the UK, is:
However, replacement demand is forecast to be a significant factor generating net positive recruitment demand even for occupational groups that are expected to decline in absolute numbers.
There is demand for a range of skills associated in various patterns with different occupations. These have been identified as:
Marketing and sales
High level supervisory skills (team management, product management, leadership)
Adaptability and flexibility
Responsiveness to learning opportunities
Customer service skills
|Personal attributes||Positive attitudes and work ethic|
H & S
Quality process awareness
Maintenance skills and multi-skilling
Manual skills and dexterity
Given that the clear agenda is to increase productivity, growth in the availability and quality of maintenance and engineering skills may be a particularly important requirement for the industry. As in other sectors, therefore, though demand for such skills cannot be easily quantified, it is clear that a sector which is increasingly technical in orientation, which is seeking efficiencies in vertical integration and larger production units, and which, because of global competition is increasingly required to be responsive to segmented and sophisticated markets, is also requiring a skills base which is more formalised and structured. As ‘relaxed’ ways of working are replaced by formal ones, all areas of operation from the shop floor upwards demand a wider, more clearly defined, and more frequently certificated skills base. The question is, of course, of whether and how this demand is to be met.
As in other industries, skills supply information is limited and inferential. Some key points are:
However, outputs at intermediate skill levels give greater cause for concern:
A range of analyses have indicated recruitment difficulties and skill shortages in the sector. The national Employer Skills Survey in 2000 found 9,500 national vacancies in the sector of which 60% were hard-to-fill.
In dairying, all occupations were found to be subject to recruitment difficulty (ranging from 11% for doorstep milk round staff). Seasonal variations, general national shortages for some occupations (engineers, HGV drivers), wage levels, unsocial hours, industry uncertainty, and general retention problems were implicated in these shortages, however, not necessarily ‘skill shortage’ as such. A large part of the industry’s training budget was given over to basic induction and health and safety training for new staff rather than to developing higher skill levels in existing staff.
A fifth of firms (21%) in the meat industry in the South West (industry survey 1999) reported substantial recruitment difficulties (national average, 16%).Key shortages were identified, in order of frequency as:
In bakery skilled bakers were hard-to-recruit (70% of employers reported difficulty in 1999/2000) and both supervisory and unskilled positions were hard-to-fill.
In the seafish sector a range of recruitment difficulties were reported including:
Skills gaps in existing workforces were also widely recognised:
These skills gaps have both sector wide and sub-sector components which can be perceived in the following sub-sector analysis:
|Food and drink manufacture
• Job specific skills
• Communication skills
• Bakery craft skills
• Personal skills
• Communication skills
• Health and Safety
• Waste management
• Customer services
• Basic process skills (knife, filleting)
• On-board safety
• Net mending
• Satellite radio systems
• Attitudes/personal skills (reliability, time-keeping)
• Basic skills
• Craft skills in butchery
• Quality Assurance
• Management skills (HR and industrial relations)
• Basic skills
• Generic skills
• Sales skills
• Technical skills
Overall, therefore a review of skills in the food and drink industry suggests that skills supply is not matching skills demand:
These problems are not at a critical level (the industry finds ways of working round them and, perhaps critically, the supply of engineers and food technologists is adequate) but they present a drag on innovation and competitiveness.
The industry has recognised a range of issues on which action plans, at national and regional level, need to focus.
Demand for Skills in Food & Drink Manufacture/Processing
15% of the labour force is part time (compared to 9% across all manufacturing activities). Part time employment in this sector is growing faster than full time employment. Part time employment is most common in the baking and frozen food sub-sectors, reflecting the nature of the demand for these products, often made to order and subject to seasonal variations in output. Both these factors require a flexible workforce and explain the higher levels of part-time employment observed. Seasonal staffing is very common across the industry as a whole and 45% of sites employ some temporary staff during the year. 45% of the workforce in food and drink manufacture are female compared to 27% nationally. Female employment is particularly high in certain sub-sectors, particularly biscuits, cakes, chocolate and confectionery where women account for 52% of the workforce.
The majority of training given to employees is in-house. Only 12% of sites employ young people on training schemes such as Modern Apprenticeships or National Traineeships. The main barrier to formalised training tends to be cost which disproportionately affects smaller employers. This is particularly important in the food and drink industry, as all firms have to provide training to comply with food safety regulations.
Supply of Skills in Food & Drink Manufacture/Processing
Skills shortages are an issue - the Food and Drink NTO found that more than a quarter of firms seeking to fill vacancies experienced difficulties in recruiting people, largely due to a lack of skills and qualifications among the applicants, and 14% of sites identifed a skills gap of some kind. Most commonly these gaps relate to job specific skills but also skills such as communications skills and the ability to show initiative. Skills gaps generally relate to production staff (operatives) which account for 56% of all employment in the sector. Nationally, skills gaps are acute in bakery and soft drinks and less of an issue in frozen foods.
In the future, personal skills will become more important with a growing requirement for employees skilled in customer service, teamworking and information technology. The demand for flexible staff is also expected to continue. Most employees in the food and drink manufacturing industry in the South West are concentrated in relatively low skilled, operative type jobs. Reflecting this, the main occupational categories in the industry are:
The industry is characterised by high levels of seasonal working and student workers often meet this demand.
The IER research identified the main recruitment problems in the South West to be in craft, technical and management positions e.g. maintenance engineers, technologists, production managers. The shortage of these skills in the region is compounded by fewer numbers of young people entering the industry. The research also found that skills shortages were more acute in the north of the region (notably Bristol and Swindon) where the demand for low skill operatives is particularly high. The Food and Drink NTO found that the South West was the third most likely region in Great Britain (behind West Midlands and London) to experience difficulties in filling vacancies in the sector. Sites in the South West appear to be increasing in size and evidence in the report suggests large food and drink manufacturing companies in the South West may not have access to a sufficient pool of labour with the required skills.
Small firms in the region have been slow to adopt new technologies in their production processes but for those that have there has been a reduction in the numbers of staff required as processes are more automated. At the same time, increasing diversification has required machinery operatives to become multi-skilled to cope with different machines and processes. In the future, this type of flexible, multi-skilled employee will be more in demand.
Small firms in the region receive generic training as bespoke courses are too expensive. As a result much of the training received is therefore the same type of training as found in other sectors e.g. health and safety, time management, administration skills etc. Thus the focus of RDA attention should be in ensuring firms receive the bespoke training that they require and ensure it is accessible to the region’s SMEs, both in terms of cost and location (as many firms find it difficult to leave their place of work to attend training).
As the food and drink sector covers a diverse of activities skills information is fragmented. In identifying skills issues information has been gathered from the various National Training Organisations that are responsible for different parts of the sector:
Some of the qualities you need are:
If you decide to work with the public in some way, for example in sales, or you want to go into supervisory management, sales, marketing, etc you should also enjoy meeting people and be able to communicate well. More jobs these days require you to use new technology, from computers to mobile ‘phones.
If you want to run your own business you will need all the qualities above especially working under pressure! But you will also need experience of:
Many of skills can be gained through short courses at your local college or the industry training bodies mentioned below. Trade associations can also advise on some of these issues.