In a letter to the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, the Food & Drink Training & Education Council (FTC) and the Provision Trade Federation (PTF) have called for more support for food apprenticeships amidst cost increases and skills shortages.

Luke Hall MP, who has officially assumed the position of Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, was addressed by FTC CEO Christine Walsh in the letter.

The letter said: “Before Easter your predecessor wrote his annual letter to the apprenticeship sector listing his department’s achievements, which we now see as his valedictory.

“We were very disappointed that although he highlighted the department review of over 100 standards, not one of them was a Food and Drink (craft & technical) apprenticeship and would like to ask you, why have these apprenticeships been overlooked so far?

“Since the UK left the EU the shortages of staff and skills has meant that companies have raised salaries significantly above inflation to recruit and retain staff. This is most keenly felt in the craft areas such as butchery, bakery, brewing and fishmongers.”

The letter stressed that the food industry was the “biggest manufacturing sector by turnover”, valued at £104.4 billion. It went on to say that the salary increases had “endangered” some food and drink apprenticeships by raising costs, “especially as training providers and assessors have been also hit by above inflation salary increases”.

“We are in danger of losing the training providers who specialise in the food and drink apprenticeships unless the funding rates for the standards are not reviewed as a matter of urgency,” said the letter. “We urge you to investigate the matter with the IfATE as a priority. It would be of benefit to the industry if the food and drink apprenticeships were added to the next round of Standard reviews.”