The Joint Investment Programme was successfully secured this month by Improve, the food and drink sector skills council.
The project will fund training in areas such as food processing, packaging and safety and is operated by the Skills Funding Agency which finances training in England.
Through the programme Improve aims to bring together private and public investment to support training and skills development in areas that the council says are “key to economic recovery and future growth”.
Liz Pattison, head of skills solutions for Improve said: “Overall we expect the programme to address skills gaps, meet new skills needs and increase investment in developing technician and professional skills to deliver real impact on economic growth in the food and drink industry.”
Pattison told FoodProductionDaily.com that funding will be claimed on a first come, first served basis for training places that are available from now until the end of July 2011.
Sector related qualifications are available to employees in areas such as food manufacturing excellence, bakery proficiency qualification or meat and poultry proficiency.
However, Pattison said employees can also take flexible, individual units within each area so that employers can deliver training that is directly relevant to their businesses needs.
“This is something that Improve has been pushing hard for because our food and drink industry needs a choice of training solutions which will deliver real benefits to businesses,” said Pattison.
She added, “Pre-packaged qualifications don’t always address the specific skills needs of an individual business, so there is a degree of inefficiency about them.”
Funding is available to all employees, although Pattison said that training will be at Levels 3 and Level 4, so mainly supervisor and technical levels will be covered.
Food and drink employers who want to take advantage of the matched funding are encouraged to contact Improve’s sister organisation, the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing which will be responsible for delivery of the training.
According to Pattison, Improve research shows that the UK food and drink industry needs to fill around 45,000 higher level skill or professional posts by 2017.
Improve claims that employers identified technical, practical and job-specific skills as those that need to be boosted the most in the next two to three years.
The training will only be delivered by training providers which are approved by the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing.