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Seminar bids to tackle industry skills shortage

By staff reporter , 28-Oct-2009
Last updated on 28-Oct-2009 at 15:32 GMT

Tackling shortfalls in engineering, maintenance and equipment training within the UK baked goods and wider food and drink sector is critical to maintaining plant uptime and is the focus of a one day seminar next month.

The skills conference is being co-hosted by the Centre for Food Robotics and Automation (CenFRA), consultancy MCP, Reaseheath College and the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink.

The organisers said the seminar aims to rectify the gap in skills through an exchange of ideas and identification of the specific training and skills required to keep production running.

Biscuit factory study

The conference will feature a presentation from John Holland, training and development manager at United Biscuits, who instigated a training programme, in conjunction with MCP consultancy, for operators and engineers at the manufacturer’s factory in Harlesden, North London.

His programme enabled the multi-skilling of electrical and mechanical engineers with the aim of giving electrical engineers the skills to carry out basic mechanical functions, and vice versa.

He maintains that both sets of engineers can keep the biscuit production line running 24 hours a day, seven days a week through fault repair and mechanical adjustments, while at the same time acquiring additional skills.

National agenda

CenFRA maintains that the seminar will also provide an ideal opportunity for companies to influence and develop the national training agenda for maintenance and equipment operator skills.

The Centre has been working with the National Skills Academy to provide online learning packages for employees so that they can access training in robotics and automation remotely, and eventually acquire NVQ qualifications from Level 1 through to Level 4 and Foundation Degree.

Training

Consultancy MCP, said that during times of uncertainty, businesses often conclude that the only way to survive is cut its workforce but often training staff to be more productive and efficient can result in greater efficiencies:

“A recent audit of 350 companies within the (food and drink) industry undertaken by MCP Training highlighted a real skills shortage in the maintenance and operation of plant equipment leading to increased downtime and consequently a drop in both productivity and profits,” said the agency.

The conference will be held at Reaseheath College on 18 November.

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