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Scotland Food & Drink Federation Skills Ambassadors

26 Jan 2016

Scotland Food & Drink Skills Ambassadors


At the beginning of last year I was asked by the Scotland Food and Drink Federation (SFDF) Director, Colette Backwell, to get involved with their ongoing talent initiative the Food and Drink Skills Ambassadors network. The SFDF Skills Ambassadors Network is designed to inspire young people to join the sector by harnessing the skills, knowledge and expertise of people working within the food and drink sector.  Whilst it is aimed at educating young people about the sector and the very wide range of careers it has to offer, companies also find it beneficial for their employees, in terms of their personal development and for the company as a whole, in terms of CSR and developing a positive image of their company.


The Food and Drink industry in Scotland is a great success story, demonstrating significant growth year on year and a key driving force behind this success is its people.  However, the industry and wider sector continuously face the challenge of attracting and retaining a pipeline of skilled workers to support this continued growth. Many young people are unaware of the wide variety of job opportunities available in the food and drink sector ranging from primary production through to the manufacture of produce and retail and there are still too many outdated perceptions of what it is like to work in.


Skills and training continues to be a major focus for the food and drink sector, in recognition of the important role that the next generation of food scientists and technologists, engineers, operations and marketing candidates will play in driving innovation and meeting the key challenges of the industry. 


To help address these issues the Scottish Food & Drink Federation (SFDF) set up the Food & Drink Skills Ambassadors Network, with funding from Skills Development Scotland, to dispel the outdated perceptions and inspire young people to think how exciting, innovative and diverse the sector can be.


Skills and talent underpin the success of the food and drink manufacturing industry, but securing the skilled workforce that is needed for a successful future presents a series of challenges . Over the next year the SFDF Food and Drink Skills Ambassadors Network will be helping the industry to make food and drink a career destination of choice for the brightest and the best young talent, fostering greater access to the food scientists, food technicians and food engineers of the future and supporting businesses large and small to equip staff with the tools they need to boost productivity and innovation.


Skills shortages have been an ongoing concern for the food and drink sector, which urgently needs new entrants to replace an ageing workforce. It has been hit by the nationwide lack of students taking degrees in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), and also suffers from a low profile and a relatively poor image, which means it struggles to compete against other industries to secure graduates in those fields. In early 2013, a survey of over 750 food and drink professionals highlighted the scale of the challenge. Almost half said their company struggled to find candidates with the right skills, while the same proportion felt that the sector’s greatest challenge over the next 10 years would be young people leaving education without the necessary skills for work.


There are a number of ways to get involved, for example; take part in a 10 minute presentation on your day to day job, or judging a competition, or helping a teacher bring Food & Drink to life with real examples of how it is used in the everyday world of work.


There are many benefits such as:

  • Personal development of their planning and communication skills (giving a presentation, planning and delivering an activity, managing teams etc)
  • Helping to understand their subject area better through presenting it to younger people who may have a different perspective
  • Getting to meet other people who are passionate about the sector
  • Having fun!


From an organisations perspective, you raise your profile in the community and staff gain the benefits listed above. In addition some companies have noted improved motivation and staff retention through allowing employees to take part in this type of schools engagement.

Food & Drink Ambassadors represent all areas from farm to fork and are only expected to commit to one activity a year which could be a site visit for a local school, helping out at a school careers event or even the Royal Highland Show or a science fair.   

Some of the larger companies also use it as part of their training and development process for key staff as they find it is motivational and can help with team building.  

Our partnership goes beyond typical recruitment services. Eden Scott has two dedicated, highly skilled consultants working with SFDF Food and Drink Skills Ambassadors Network.  Alasdair Murray and myself are delighted to be part of this exciting partnership and we’re confident we’ll be able to reach out and engage with the best talented in the industry and companies wishing to be a part of this.


Got a question for our food and drink team? You can contact them here.

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