Industry Interview: Scotland Food and Drink Skills Academy

sfdsa_logoAs 2015 celebrates Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, a recent Scottish Government report shows industry sector growth of 20% in four years. Currently employing 360,000 people, Scotland’s Food and Drink industry is estimated to be worth over £16bn by 2017 and will clearly play a significant role in Scotland’s future economic success.

To ensure the industry achieves its ambitious target, Food and Drink employers must look at how to attract, retain and develop talent into what is becoming an increasingly competitive sector.

Providing services and support designed to influence Government policy, develop new training initiatives and promote best practice, the Scotland Food and Drink Skills Academy (SFDSA) is one organisation focussed on skills development across the industry.

To find out more about the services they offer, where they fit into the supply chain and how Food and Drink organisations can benefit from their work, we spoke with Angie Foreman, Operations and Partnership Manager at SFDSA:

Hi Angie, thanks for talking to us about the work of the SFDSA.  Tell us, how long has The Skills Academy been established and who is involved?
The Academy is relatively new and still in its infancy; we launched midway through 2013 and our board combines industry and stakeholder representatives including employers from Scotland’s distillery, fresh produce, meat, dairy and bakery sectors and representatives from Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Food and Drink Federation, Scotland Food & Drink and the Scottish Funding Council.

What is your role within Scotland’s Food and Drinks industry?
Our focus is on providing training solutions for manufacturing and processing sectors within the food and drink industry. We have an enthusiastic network of approved food and drink specialist training providers. By working closely with industry and relevant stakeholder groups such as Skills Development Scotland, we aim to ensure the availability of cost effective training for staff and managers to help businesses achieve their organisational objectives through the attraction and development of knowledgeable, skilled and motivated employees.

How are you supported and funded?
We are funded by the Scottish Government, the Scottish Funding Council and Skills Development Scotland, and are fortunate enough to be hosted by Abertay University. Additionally we have strong ties with the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink, based in York. They have a tried and tested model which has been running for 8 years allowing us to learn from their experience and share their knowledge.

What services do you provide and how will employers benefit from working with The Skills Academy?
Our services to employers in the food manufacturing sector are currently free of charge. Specifically, our experienced consultants work with employers to identify training gaps before recommending a short-list of suitable and experienced training providers who understand the food and drink industry. We also ensure all funding opportunities and partnerships programmes are explored, such as ‘Skills for Growth Programme’. By continuously working closely with a range of employers we can advise our training network on industry needs and where training gaps exist, allowing them to create resources and offer relevant training solutions.

The Academy also collaborates with Further and Higher Education institutions, as well as stakeholder groups such as Scottish Enterprise, Highland and Island Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland to ensure relevant spending is focused in the right ways and that industry needs are being met now and in the future.

We know that by investing in training, employees add real economic value to their employer organisations, there is increased capacity to adopt new methods, increased ability to change and increased motivation, all of which result in reduced employee turnover, increased ability to attract higher calibre staff and increased efficiencies and profitability.

What do you believe are the key issues currently facing Scottish Food and Drink employers?
There are quite a few key issues which directly impact on the skills and training required within the industry. For example, the changes in the way consumers are buying food have impacted on the manufacturing process which in turn has increased the need for new and different skills within engineering. The sector as a whole loses a lot of engineers to competitive industries and many food and drink companies have found it hard to compete when trying to attract talent.

Additionally, new developments in dietary requirements and health trends have created new skill requirements and career opportunities within food science and technology.

The academy is working with industry and education to support these changes in demand, for example currently there are no specific qualification for engineering designed for the food and drink industry in Scotland and we are working with Improve the Sector Skills Council to make this available.

Looking ahead, what do you believe the future holds for the Scottish food and drink industry?
Scotland Food and Drink – the industry’s leadership body is driving forward the ‘Land of Food and Drink Action Plan’ with passion and energy. This has led to increased productivity, new product development, innovation and reduction in waste. With the support of Scotland Development International our exports continue to increase along with investment. Our reputation for quality, variety of produce and provenance is a real strength: from whisky to craft beer, Angus beef to Arbroath Smokies or Artisan cheese to oatcakes – the richness in our larder is plentiful, as are the opportunities for all who are involved in this dynamic and growing industry.

Do you have any advice for people looking to move into the industry or further their career within food and drink?
The Scottish food and drink industry can offer individuals real diversity across a range of sectors throughout their career. There are opportunities for employees to apply their skills across different subsectors such as dairy, bakery, brewing, fresh produce etc and develop their career further within the industry in Scotland or globally. Employers are generally very open to attracting talent from other industries, and for individuals with the right core skills, many employers are happy to invest in the required training to ensure they can succeed in the food and drink sector.

Employees can find out more about the industry by contacting us, Skills Development Scotland or the Scottish Food and Drink Federation.

How do you believe employers can prepare their organisations to succeed in attracting/developing/retaining talent?
Employers can sell themselves to potential candidates, for example highlighting their successes, their values, training opportunities, incentives, leadership and culture. Other areas, vital in attracting and retaining talent, include creating real career paths, investing in training, creating opportunities for promotion and flexibility.

How can Food and Drink Manufactures in Scotland get involved?
There is no criteria set as to who we will work with and employers are welcome to contact us by phone (07975 233 656) or via email ( to find out how we can support their organisation. Employers can also find out more at

Thanks to Angie Foreman from the SFDSA for talking with us. You can find out more at:

Escape recruit for a number of food and drink employers across Scotland. View our latest jobs and register your CV for future opportunities at


1 thought on “Industry Interview: Scotland Food and Drink Skills Academy

  1. Pingback: Industry Interview: Opportunities and challenges for 2016 | Escape: the blog

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