To help give women a little extra push on their way up the career ladder, Improve Food and Drink Skills Council and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink launched the Women and Work Sector Pathway Initiative.
The initiative aims to raise recruitment levels in sectors where women are under-represented, increase earning potential and aid career progression. Its development has come in response to recommendations by the Women and Work Commission’s report ‘Shaping a Fairer Future’ and receives government funding, matched by employer contributions.
More and more opportunities are opening up for women to forge successful careers in food and drink. Demand for ambitious, entrepreneurial and technical talent is high, and although the industry has traditionally been dominated by men, more and more companies are turning to women to fill vacancies at all levels. Forecasts estimate that the industry will need to recruit 137,000 new workers by 2017, including 45,000 people in skilled professional, supervisory and management positions.
Improve the Food and Drink Skills Council, and the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink have made assisting employers in the development and training of female employees a strategic priority. Supported by government funding, the Women and Work Sector Pathway Initiative has made available subsidised training for female workers with the specific aim of improving their access to senior roles.
Clare Keegan, Projects and Opportunities Manager at the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink, said: “Food is a fast paced industry and businesses are facing pressing employment needs, and with the right skills, the right credentials and the right attitude, the sky really is the limit.”
“The Women and Work Sector Pathways Initiative has offered vital support in ensuring women have the skills employers want and encouraging them to grow in confidence, to potentially climb the ladder into more senior positions. Investing in your own personal development now could reap fantastic rewards further down the line.”
Case Study: British Bakels
In 2010, bakery ingredients manufacturer British Bakels promoted two female employees to their first positions in management.
Christine Westphal and Elaine Bateman were appointed Quality Manager and New Product Development Manager respectively, taking charge of teams of six or seven colleagues.
In order to support the pair in their new positions, the company had already earmarked them for management training when training manager Geoff Nixon learned about the Women and Work Sector Pathway Initiative.
“The first I heard of the scheme was from a National Skills Academy advert,” said Geoff. “I got in touch and right from the start; I thought the way the National Skills Academy engaged with us was very impressive.”
“After an initial conversation with a National Skills Academy Skills Consultant, I was referred to one of their approved training providers, Campus Training, who had a long conversation with me about the jobs the two candidates did, what areas we wanted to develop and what outcomes we wanted.”
“After that, one of their trainers, Keith Crampton, came out to visit the premises and talk to us and the two women directly, before going away and putting together a training programme.
I was very impressed - all of us, Christine and Elaine included, felt very involved in the process, and that gave us confidence that our needs would be met.”
The course put together for Christine and Elaine was a programme split into two topics, ‘Communication and Time Management’ and ‘Performance and Project Management’. Delivery took place on the company’s premises in Bicester and involved a blend of training, facilitation and executive coaching.
With the subsidy available, the programme cost British Bakels just £100 per person, in cash with an in-kind contribution.
“The programme very much reflected the areas our technical manager wanted to focus on from the start, things like communication, time management, setting objectives and ensuring delivery against them,” said Geoff.
“It definitely delivered against what we expected. Christine and Elaine both really enjoyed it, the feedback they gave was excellent and I think both they and British Bakels got a lot out of it.”
“We can already see the impact it has had on their work; they are both a lot more confident in their approach. For two people new to management, having that confidence in organising and running a team is of great value to the company because the more efficiently our teams are run and the better they perform, the better the company does.”
Geoff added that he believed helping companies develop staff through schemes like the Women and Work Sector Pathway Initiative is very important.
“I think it’s fair to say that up until the past 18 months we perhaps lacked a bit of strategic direction as a company in the way we approached staff training. But opening up opportunities internally for people like Christine and Elaine is something we now take very seriously, and I think having schemes like Women and Work to support progression into senior roles and make it affordable to businesses is vital.”