Addition of food tech courses to Lifetime Skills Guarantee welcomed by ftc
The news that two food industry qualifications have been added to the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, following “a long, slow” campaign, has been applauded by the Food and Drink Training and Education Council (ftc).
When the government scheme was announced in December 2020, it was designed to see adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification offered a free, fully funded further education course. However, no food industry qualifications appeared on the list of 400 available courses.
Bill Jermey, chief executive of ftc, wrote to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and to Gillian Keegan, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills at the Department of Education. He was told that officials would be in touch to address his concerns, but heard nothing for months.
Determined to keep up the pressure, Jermey joined forces with Mark Corbett, education and skills policy manager for the Food and Drink Federation, who drew on the wider industry’s lobbying powers to have some questions asked in the House of Commons. The response was that some qualifications were available to the food industry, but these were related to warehousing rather than technical food qualifications.
Jermey sits on the Worshipful Company of Butchers’ pan-livery food group and all the food liveries also pledged their support for the campaign.
“A long, slow campaign”
Eventually, the government agreed to meet with a food industry delegation comprising Jermey; Mark Corbett; Jill Coyle, apprentice programme lead at Nestle; Darren Andrew, operations director at Cranswick PLC and Bob Bansback, honorary professor at Harper Adams University.
“A few years ago, Ofqual and the Department of Education (DfE) were looking to reduce the number of funded qualifications based on what they call the ‘no, low’ criteria, based on whether low numbers – or zero – students were taking qualifications,” Jermey said. “We put the argument that we are now in a different situation with Brexit and labour shortages. So, the food industry needed to grow and look forward to what’s going to happen in the future, rather than looking back at previous take-up of qualifications.”
The campaign has resulted in the addition of two qualifications – Level Three Diploma in Food Technology and the Level Three Diploma in Food Technology and Manufacturing – to the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.
“It’s been a long, slow campaign and there is still an opportunity to appeal for more qualifications to be added, which we will do,” Jermey said. “We would like to see three or four more added. We appreciate the fact that the government has listened to the food industry and recognised the importance of it, so this is a start.
“We’ve had to point out to officials and government ministers time and again that food manufacturing is the largest employer in manufacturing in this country by far. We have never been given the credit we’re due, so hopefully this is a start to turning the tide.”
Jermey added that the industry now needed to combat the current labour shortage by working to attract younger people into the trade.