Manufacturing appears to be back on the government’s agenda, with the recent publication of the Foresight Report on the Future of Manufacturing, under the leadership of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).
The food and drink manufacturing industry makes up a large portion if what is made within the UK. The sector is now hoping that it will receive more attention from government ministers about the structural support that it requires to prosper.
In the past, the government has focused on the more attractive areas of manufacturing, such as automotive and aerospace - even though food and drink manufacturing has an impressive record of wealth and job creation and has future export potential.
In the preface to the Foresight Report, Vince Cable, BIS secretary, did not mention the food and drink manufacturing industry, his closest reference was the government’s industrial strategy on “long-range plans to strengthen advanced manufacturing sectors” as he mentioned “life sciences” among the targeted sectors.
Melanie Leech, director general at Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: “The Foresight Report on the Future of Manufacturing is a timely reminder of the huge contribution manufacturing makes to the UK economy, the quality of jobs it provides and its potential to deliver more with the right policy frameworks.
“I'm pleased to see that the key drivers identified in the Report: innovation, exports and increasing the skills pipeline are the same as those identified in 2020, the FDF's vision shared with Government to deliver 20 per cent sustainable growth by 2020.”
Ms Leech was keen to highlight the fact that delivering increased rates of sustainable growth would require the industry to draw in and keep the best talent the market has to offer. She stated that the industry would need to hire 170,300 new employees that are equipped with the right skills to fill jobs by 2020.
She added: “In turn those talented individuals will grow our exports and power up our product and process innovation to keep UK food and drink manufacturing at the forefront of the global race.”
The manufacturing sector currently accounts for over ten per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product and employs approximately 2.5 million people across the industry. According to the FDF, the food manufacturing industry employs around 400,000 and up to 1.2 million in ancillary services.