Kraft Foods ups investment in apprentices to plug skills gap

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Kraft foods Food Food and drink federation

Kraft Foods is looking to plug an engineering skills shortage by doubling the number of apprentices it employs in the UK and Ireland.

It announced last Friday that it hopes 2 per cent of its UK & Ireland manufacturing workforce will be apprentices by the end of 2011.

The food giant currently has 36 apprentices on its books and hopes take on another 50 per cent by 2012.

Later this month it is taking on four engineering and two confectionery apprentices at its gum and candy factory in Sheffield.

Industry focus on apprenticeships

Kraft Foods joins a growing number of UK food and drink manufacturers putting faith in apprentices to fill the gap left by a diminishing number of engineering graduates.

At the Food and Drink Federation's Community Partnership Awards last week The Apprentice winner Tim Campbell announced that the industry has pledged to double the number of apprentices it employs, taking the number to around 3,400 by 2012.

Nicki Hunt, campaign manager for the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), told the move comes at a time when the industry is seeking to replace up to 137,000 skilled employees over the next five years.

“The culture in the past has been on degrees but there has been a cultural change.”

She said engineering has never been seen as a particularly attractive option for young people and the increase in university tuition fees could deter potential students further.

“People don’t know about the careers in food and drink manufacturing on offer and the image of the industry is very negative,”​ she said.

“It’s an extremely good sector to get into. It was one of the few to weather the recession, the pay is above average and the prospects are very good. People who come to the industry tend to stay for a long time.”

Hunt said the majority of apprentices will come straight from school or could be older people from other sectors.

Benefit for employers

She said more apprentices would enable companies to develop staff in its own mould and help with staff retention.

Alan Lewis, head of engineering at Kraft Food UK & Ireland said: “Apprenticeships ensure that our workforce has the practical skills and qualifications the business needs. Bringing new blood into a team also brings a sense of progression and excitement. We have seen a positive impact on employee morale as other employees see apprentices as evidence of investment in the future.”

Samantha Wothers, corporate affairs assistant manager at Kraft Foods said: “Our apprenticeship programme looks to introduce new talent into our manufacturing stream and we take on apprentices in both confectionery and engineering, which will help drive investment in our manufacturing network.”

Shortage of engineering graduates

Earlier this year Nestle said the industry was suffering from a lack of engineering graduates and it pledged to work with universities to develop courses tailored to food and drink manufacture to plug the gap.

The FDF said it will be working with its member companies over the next two years to develop the UK’s first ever food manufacturing degree, which would offer internships to provide aspiring engineers a route into the industry.

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Posted by Adele Bailey,

Is this the same Kraft Foods whom bought out Cadburys using finance from RBS, so we could kill another UK company and cause countless redundancies. Youll forgive me if i struggle with their charity now.

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Food for thought

Posted by Graham Whittleston,

I have seen this coming form many years, we need to make the apprentices understand that Engineering is a good career to be involved in. I have spent the last 25yrs in the Confectionary business as a Engineer and I am now relocating factories for Kraft in Egypt. So the work is very diverse so there is no chance of being bored and you never lose interest.

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