Food and drink manufacturing employs 456,000 people across every region and nation of the country, making it the UK's largest manufacturing sector.  Our sector pays competitive salaries and offers excellent careers and opportunities to progress through a wide variety of roles across all skills levels.


We need continued access to technical skills to help drive our industry forward, and to deliver on the strategic challenges we have ahead of us. The FDF is working with its members and government to ensure that the technical education system is one that aligns to the skills needs of food and drink manufacturers.

FDF supports the recommendations as set out in the Independent Review into Labour Shortages, led by John Shropshire OBE. View a synopsis of the recommendations, and the full report.

Apprenticeship Levy

The FDF is calling for a review of the Apprenticeships Levy.  The current Levy encourages businesses to limit the type of training available to employees and not fit for purpose.

Key asks include:

  1. Flexible spending to allow shorter, more targeted (modular) training.
  2. Create a Skills Tax Credit to incentivise skills investment.
  3. Improve SME support by:
  • Streamlining the system
  • Dedicated SME resources


The business-led Apprenticeship standards could also be improved to support building strong skills pipelines for businesses.

  1. Improve the standard and consistency of delivery across regions.
  2. Flexible options of the function skills requirement (English and Maths) and recognition of prior learning for upskilling employees.
  3. IFATE review of current standards to include ‘green skills’.

T Levels

T Levels offer an alternative pathway from A-levels into technical education.

FDF is working with Department for Education to ensure relevant T Levels deliver the skills that our industry needs:

  1. Greater clarity on how T levels fit within the wider skills system
  2. Ensure that T Levels can seamlessly progress to apprenticeships or degrees. Needed to create a parity of esteem.
  3. Block versus day release industry placements

Case studies

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Case Study

Devro plc: Think about risk and develop your people

As a food business, how do you stay ahead of the game? You anticipate what could go wrong (and right) and plan for it. You also invest in people’s training and development. Since we need good engineers to run and improve our manufacturing equipment, we train them ourselves through our apprenticeship scheme.

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Case Study

Director, Cocoa Ooze

Case Study: Jamie Hutcheon

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Case Study

Sustainability Manager, Matthew Algie

Case Study: Amy Oroko


FDF Skills and Innovation Team in Scotland

Last week FDF’s Skills and Innovation team travelled up to Scotland to meet with our FDF Scotland colleagues and some key stakeholders over three days.  The visit started with a lively conversation with Justin Thomas, Programme Manager from Developing the Young Workforce (DYW).  DYW is doing wonderful work to help attract and prepare young people for the world and work and we will be looking at opportunities to collaborate on their work in both Scotland and England.

Our second day was focused at the Royal Highland Show, where amid enjoying the best of Scottish food and drink, we met with Jennifer McInroy from Scotland Food and Drink (SFD) and discussed the shared challenges and where we could take learnings from the work happening in Scotland.  Later that afternoon we met with Howell Davies from Interface and delved into the world of innovation and automation for a few hours. Howell and Interface are key partners in the FDF Innovation Gateway, that opens up the innovation support offered across the UK through the Catapult Network, to food and drink businesses. Our day finished with a little social in the Tesco tent where we caught up with some of our members, as well as David Thomson and Tim Rycroft (Director General, AHDB).

Our final day was no less eventful with an early morning meeting with Gerry McBride from Skills Development Scotland (SDS).  Gerry gave us a comprehensive overview of the Scottish skills system and highlighted the differences between our apprenticeship systems.  Finally we headed out to the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland (NMIS) where we saw first-hand some of their fantastic work.  We had a long conversation with their team, including Alistair Williams (formerly of Macsween of Edinbugh) and Chief Commercial Office Lyne O’Hare, discussing how we can build on their expertise to help businesses increased their automation and mitigate some of the problems coming from the current labour crisis.

It was a busy and fun three days and we have returned to London with a greater appreciation of the Scottish food and drink industry and many ideas for future collaborations!  More details will be coming soon.

FDF-NSAFD Joint Apprenticeship Survey

In partnership with the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD), FDF have created a survey to establish the current state of apprenticeships in the food and drink industry. Responses to this survey will form a vital part of the FDF and NSAFD’s collaborative work on skills and will strengthen the lobbying position we bring to government.
The survey – which should take no more than 15 minutes – can be completed here and the deadline for responses is Friday 10 June 2022. 
We greatly appreciate you taking the time to complete this survey. If you have any questions please email or


Schools White Paper

The Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi, launched the first Schools White Paper in six years entitled Opportunity for All: Strong schools with great teachers for your child.

Opportunity for All sets out proposals for the UK education system to support the UK Government’s Levelling Up ambitions through improvement to teaching, careers advice and a Parent Pledge. The Parent Pledge is a guarantee that should any child, in any school, fall behind in English or maths, they will receive additional support that will enable them to reach their potential.

Two key indicators of success have been announced to support the Government’s ambition:

  • 90% of primary school children to achieve the expected standard in Key Stage 2 reading, writing and maths by 2030 (In 2019, only 65% of children attained this standard)
  • national average GCSE grade in both English language and maths to increase from 4.5 in 2019 to 5 by 2030.

The FDF welcomes this commitment to ensuring all children get the support they need, particularly for maths and English given the issues caused by the competency requirements for these two subjects in the context of apprenticeships and upskilling.

The Government will launch a new careers programme for primary schools in areas of disadvantage and are extending the legal requirement to provide independent careers guidance to all secondary school children. This includes increasing the opportunities for them to meet providers of apprenticeships and technical education.

There will also be improved professional development for teachers and leaders on careers education, including strengthening understanding of apprenticeships and technical routes.

These are valuable commitments from the government which recognise the importance of careers guidance at a young age. If effectively implemented, these programmes can have a significant impact on careers awareness among secondary students of all ages. The FDF, along with the National Manufacturing Skills Taskforce will work with careers advisors and teachers to ensure that the vast array of exciting careers available at every level in the food and drink sector are included in the guidance given to students across the country.

Also included in the Schools White Paper are commitments to the following:

  • launch a new careers programme for primary schools in disadvantaged areas
  • provide more opportunities for students to meet providers of apprenticeships and technical education.
  • Improve professional development for teachers and leaders on careers education, including improving their understanding of apprenticeships and technical routes

The FDF sees working with schools and learning providers as a key part of our ambition to develop a sustainable skills pipeline within our industry to maintain a growing workforce. We have launched a Careers Passport with the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink, developed our own Skills Toolkit, and are in continuous conversation with government stakeholders across multiple departments on key issues such as the Apprenticeship Levy and T Levels. Issues relating to skills and education are discussed in our Employment Skills Forum. For information on the forum contact

FDF Conference 2022: UK Food and Drink - The cornerstone of British manufacturing

We are delighted to announce the expert panel of speakers joining us to discuss the topic of "UK Food and Drink: The cornerstone of British manufacturing" at our upcoming Food and Drink Federation Conference taking place at The National Gallery on 22 March 2022.

UK food and drink is operating in exceptional times. As we recover from Covid, post EU Exit and up against many other global challenges, supply chains are being stretched, labour and skills shortages are acute and food inflation is the big issue hitting business and consumers. But how will our resilient and innovative industry rise to the challenges, overcome the barriers and thrive into the coming decade?

Key speakers:

  • David Webster, Director of Sustainability and External Affairs, AB Foods
  • Dan Tomlinson, Senior Economist, Resolution Foundation
  • Chris Williams, Partner and Co-Head of Economic Consulting Practice, Grant Thornton

Other topics we will cover include:

  1. Net Zero versus reality?
  2. Exciting and inspiring UK Food and Drink consumers
  3. Maximising your export potential


Find out more and register your place.


Food & drink bosses take on Apprentice for a Day challenge

Bosses of leading food & drink organisations have gone back to the workfloor to experience life as an “apprentice for a day”.

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Skills for life: FDF celebrates National Apprenticeship Week 2024

Look back as we revisit some fabulous apprenticeship stories in honour of National Apprenticeship Week 2024!

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