£The National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing will open in April after receiving the go-ahead by the government today (Wednesday 31 January 2007).
The culmination of more than two years of research, planning and development by leading employers, co-ordinated by Improve, the food and drink sector skills council, the £4.4 million academy is forecast to deliver new skills to at least 28,000 people during its first four years.
“This is a major new landmark in the training provision for food and drink manufacturers,” said the chairman of Improve Paul Wilkinson, who is also chairman of two food manufacturers, Big Bear and Produce World. “The National Skills Academy has been driven by employers’ needs, has been designed by employers, and will be run by employers.”
The majority of training programmes will be delivered through a network of approved Academy Training Centres, each designated by its particular specialist area of expertise. The first five are: Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education (fish processing); University of Lincoln Holbeach Campus (chilled ready meals); Poultec Training, Dereham in Norfolk (meat and poultry); Reaseheath College in Nantwich (dairy); and Johnson Diversey in Northampton (food hygiene). More are expected to be approved soon, and it is anticipated that there will be 35 within three years.
Although funded initially for England only, it is hoped that the academy will soon be able to make its programmes available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through a planned network of Registered Training Providers. These will be organisations or individuals who will not have a recognised status within the academy, but who will become accredited to deliver academy courses anywhere in the UK. It is expected that there will be 200 within four years.
A major benefit of the academy will be the ease with which it can co-ordinate the many hundreds of existing training programmes and units available in different parts of the country and make them available to learners wherever they happen to be.
The academy will also draw upon the best expertise available to develop new training programmes and learning units designed specifically to meet the needs of employers. Already there are ideas in the pipeline for about 40 new programmes and units which eventually will be accessed through the new academy.
The first wholly new programme to be offered as soon as the academy opens its doors is ‘Production management – a lean approach’. It has been designed and produced specifically for the academy, and will deliver learning units pitched at NVQ levels 2 and 3. Learners can select from job-specific units for bakery, meat and poultry, sea-fish processing, or general food manufacturing. More units for other specialist areas will be added later.
The programme can be followed in the form of a blended e-learning course, which is a combination of online study and classroom or work-based learning. The online parts of the programme will be available through the National Skills Academy web site, which will go live in March, and which will also provide an information base for learners and employers.
Web site features will include: diagnostic tools to identify the skills that individuals might require and the best training solutions available; a course-finder tool that works with a fully searchable database; on-line training courses; and access to training materials. The web site will also act as the communications and information centre for the academy’s administration.
Jaine Clarke, Director of Skills for Employers, Learning and Skills Council (which manages the network of National Skills Academies), said: “Each National Skills Academy represents a major commitment by Government in the future skill needs of the economy. We are proud to have worked with Improve – the Sector Skills Council for Food and Drink Manufacturing – to deliver this important initiative.
“Employer commitment and sponsorship is key to the success of National Skills Academies and the benefits for UK employers are far reaching. This is why companies such as Big Bear, Warburton’s, Nestle UK and RHM have worked with Improve to create the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing. They believe that a highly trained and motivated workforce delivers improvements to productivity and performance.”