Western Isles schools coop careers in food and drink

Five schools across the Isle of Lewis have been set a series of tasty challenges by some of the country’s leading food and drink companies as part of an innovative scheme to highlight the full menu of potential jobs in the industry.

The Food and Drink Industry Schools Challenge has been whipped up by the Scottish Food and Drink Federation, in partnership with Skills Development Scotland, Learning and Teaching Scotland, the Scottish Government and businesses in the food and drink industry.

Back School, Lionel School, the Nicolson Institute, Shawbost School and Sgoil nan Loch are all taking part in the programme and join schools from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire, Livingston and Lanarkshire.

Moira Stalker, National Scottish Food and Drink Federation Schools Co-ordinator said: “Food and drink is a tremendously important industry for Scotland and we want to ensure young people consider it a viable career option when they leave school.

“The Challenge seeks to link schools and business together on areas that are relevant to the industry, such as sustainability, ethical trading, food security and health and wellbeing, while offering something interesting and stimulating for the youngsters to work on.

“For example, one of our schools has been set the challenge of designing a new dessert and creating a publication of some sort to publicise it. This touches on a range of subject areas – geography, IT, English, as well as home economics – meaning the pupils will be learning as well as having fun.”

Companies such as Macphie of Glenbervie, Nairns, Stoats, Matthew Algie, United Central Bakeries and Caledonia Produce have signed up to work with schools in their local areas to devise cunning challenges to stretch the imaginations of pupils.

The initiative has been created to showcase the diverse range of careers available in the sector and has been crafted to tie all of the elements of the challenge in with the new Curriculum for Excellence.

The food and drink industry is one of Scotland’s priority sectors, with production alone providing employment for around 50,000 people and generating an annual turnover of around £7.6 billion.

However, there is widespread misunderstanding about the career prospects in the industry, leaving it with skills gaps and labour shortages in high-value areas such as engineering, food science and food technology.

The new Food and Drink Industry Schools Challenge aims to give young people a flavour of the breadth of opportunities within the industry and will encompass elements such as environmental management, regulatory affairs, marketing and product development.

Skills Development Scotland has invested £30,000 into the scheme in order to help plug the skills gap in the industry. This funding from SDS will go towards the creation of learning materials which can be used for other schools which embark upon the programme.

Gerry McBride, Strategic Relations Manager, Food & Drink at Skills Development Scotland said: “The Challenge activities are designed to make connections between schools, skills and employment opportunities to paint a picture of the career pathways open to young people as they move from full time education into the world of work.

“The food and drink industry offers much more than just production jobs – many of these companies are now looking to recruit chemists, biologists, engineers and a range of other highly skilled personnel.

“These are highly skilled, high value jobs and it is vital our young people recognise the opportunities and are equipped with the skills needed by this dynamic and fast-moving industry.”

The Food and Drink Industry Schools Challenge is being rolled out across primary and secondary schools throughout Scotland.