The Welsh food sector received a boost last week with the launch of the Food Industry Skills Strategy Group dedicated to strengthening workforce skills and experience.
Dessert ingredients supplier Beacon Foods teamed up with Premier Foods, Northern Foods and First Milk, together with the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) to oversee the Food Industry Skills Project.
Expert industry advice
Beacon Foods, with a number of other food companies, will deliver expert industry advice to the project which has attracted funding of £250,000 from the Higher Educational Funding Council for Wales. The money will be used to develop a Masters course and short courses tailored to the needs of the Welsh food industry.
A bursary scheme will also be launched for food science-related degrees at Welsh universities.
"Beacon Foods recruits food related degree graduates and provides a number of industrial placements for undergraduates," said Linda Lloyd, Beacon Foods' human resources director. "We are delighted to be part of this exciting initiative and to be associated with a project that increases awareness of the food industry in Wales."
Helen Taylor, UWIC's food industry skills co-ordinator, has been appointed to lead the Food Industry Skills Strategy Group. "This group has pan-Wales representation and we have deliberately chosen companies from across a majority of key sectors covering various products and processes," said Taylor.
Combating the skills gap
"The group will pull knowledge and experience together to combat the issues the food industry has been facing in recent years. A skills gap has been identified and it is great that so many organizations are getting involved to turn this around. The desire is there and now we have the expertise to move things forward," she added.
Taylor also leads UWIC's Packaging Innovation Group (PI Group) which claims to combine food science and technology skills with packaging and design expertise.
Beacon Foods, based in the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales, produces pastry products, desserts, sandwiches, prepared meals and pizzas, together with sauces, soups, dips and dressings. Its dessert range includes caramelized zest, fruit compotes and fruit purees.
Other Welsh academic institutions supporting the project are the University of Glamorgan, Aberystwyth University, Coleg Menai and the Food Centre Wales.