September 22, 2021

Reviewing the food and drink skills landscape

Written by Nick Kuht:  During last winter I was fortunate enough to be able to complete a 3-month placement with KTN, an organisation which seeks to connect and support business, government, research and the third sector in responding to challenges across a range of sectors, driving positive change through innovation. Specifically, I spent my placement working within the KTN AgriFood team where I carried out a review of the skills and recruitment landscape of the UK food and drink sector.

The main focus of the placement was to carry out an analysis of the skills and recruitment landscape across the food and drink sector, with a particular focus on skilled and technical roles. I primarily did this through surveying stakeholders (over 100 respondents) on several topics. The survey yielded some extremely interesting results which I presented in a report that was published earlier this year. The report highlighted the growing shortfall in the availability of technical and skilled personnel in the sector, as well as raising a number of other related issues that require urgent attention. The report provides further evidence on the current state of skills and recruitment in food and drink. It is hoped it will support the sector in taking action to address the major concerns highlighted, and help develop the talent pipeline it requires to ensure future growth and success.

In addition to the skills and recruitment report, I was also tasked with identifying the external facing resources that exist to promote the food and drink sector. This database of resources was passed onto the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST), who I worked closely with throughout the placement, who will use it to develop a repository of resources to help promote the sector as a career destination.

Although much of my three months with the KTN was devoted to the report and resources database I produced, I was also fortunate enough to be involved with a range of other activities. For example, I was able to gain an insight into the grant and award application process for research projects. I also attended a BBSRC DRINC (Diet and Health Research Industry Club) dissemination event, learning about some of the exciting research that is ongoing across the food and drink sector. Finally, I also had the opportunity to produce an article taking a look at the future trends in food and drink and discuss their implications they might have on innovation and opportunities in the sector.

The placement was a hugely enjoyable and valuable three months for me. Over the course of the placement, I broadened my knowledge of the food sector and the major challenges it faces in the future, most notably the growing recruitment gap that risks the continued success of the industry as a whole. My time at KTN has also offered me a new appreciation of how academia, industry and funding bodies all fit together to collaborate to tackle a range of important issues.

Finally, even though I was unable to meet any of my KTN colleagues during my placement I’m happy to say that such restrictions failed to prevent me from feeling any less welcome and a part of the KTN AgriFood team. Without them the experience would not have been as valuable or enjoyable, and would like to thank them all for their support throughout.