Unwrapping packaging apprenticeships
Julia Chippendale, Managing Director of EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications, explains how apprenticeships are helping the packaging sector overcome skills shortages.
The UK packaging sector has annual sales in excess of £11 billion and employs over 85,000 people – representing 3% of the manufacturing workforce. Like the rest of the manufacturing industry, a skills shortage looms large over packaging firms throughout the UK.
A combination of an aging workforce and a low percentage of STEM learners leaving schools is forcing the sector to rethink its recruitment strategy post economic downturn. In an effort to attract new and enthusiastic talent, employers are turning to apprenticeships, which are proving highly successful.
One such firm is Ishida Europe, a leading supplier of automated weighing, packing and quality control solutions for the food industry. While the company has a history of recruiting apprentices, the programme was paused in 2008. Three years later, Ishida started looking at apprenticeships again to address emerging skills shortages and also create a talent pipeline for the company.
Now, Ishida has 11 working apprentices, with a further two positions opening later this year. The apprenticeships range engineering, accounts and IT, with all apprentices able to progress into full careers in these areas.
Simon Cutler, Learning and Development Manager at Ishida Europe, said: “Historically, Ishida had an apprenticeships programme, but this was placed on hold during the economic downturn. We restarted it when we felt the timing was correct to revisit this important activity.
“Each Ishida apprentice has a structured development plan, including key learning and development activities aligned to the role and pathway they take, which could include technical engineering courses as well as soft skills development.”
Ishida’s engineering apprentices are undertaking EAL’s Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering Technical Support, with the programme being run through The EEF as well as Bournemouth and Poole College. One such apprentice is Daniel Althorp, who is also a member of the Industry Apprentice Council (IAC), which was launched by EAL and is sponsored by The IMI.
He said: “Engineering is an industry I have always strived to be a part of. When looking for apprenticeships, Ishida was a company who offered all the tools for a successful future career. I aim to gain as much vital and valuable engineering experience within the design sector before focusing on entering a role of higher responsibility, using my experience to perhaps focus on the management of projects.”
As the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications, EAL offers a range of food and drink manufacturing qualifications, as well as engineering and business-improvement techniques. These qualifications have been used to improve efficiency, achieve cost and energy savings, boost retention and demonstrate workforce skills and knowledge.