Northern Ireland set to scrap food craft apprenticeships

Northern Ireland set to scrap food craft apprenticeships

The Food and Drink Training and Education Council (FTC) says it is concerned by Northern Ireland’s proposed plans to scrap specific apprenticeships for butchers, brewers, bakers and fishmongers and replace them with a single, cluster qualification. The organisation told Meat Management it sees the move as a very regressive step. 

Bill Jermey, FTC chief executive

FTC chief executive, Bill Jermey, is concerned by Northern Ireland’s decision to scrap craft apprenticeships.

FTC chief executive, Bill Jermey, has warned that the new ‘food operative’ apprentices will be unable to compete with apprentices from other nations with apprenticeships qualifying them as Butchers, Fishmongers and other skilled crafts.

Calling on employers, trade organisations and membership bodies to make their voices heard, Jermey said: “It is beyond belief that such radical change has come this far without wider sector input. We must all act now to ensure Northern Ireland retain their craft occupations and provide skilled jobs for their young people now and into the future.”

The move comes just as other nations, including England, reformed its training programmes into more occupationally specific apprenticeships. The outcome has been the emergence of professionally trained, ‘work ready’ craft apprentices and the revival of traditional trades

In Northern Ireland, however, it appears these same industries intend to do the complete opposite and group multiple food trades into a single qualification.

The FTC has voiced its concerns in a letter to Diane Dodds, who this week has been appointed the Minister for the Economy in Northern Ireland.

The final structure of the ‘Food Operative’ qualification is still to be decided. The Sectorial Partnership has provided a consultation that stakeholders may contribute to. According to industry sources, this is purely to refine the detail of what seems already to be a ‘done deal’.

Initial enquiries have revealed that several trade associations are completely unaware of the plans, despite the consultation ending on 31st January.

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