‘Green skills’ are helping food and drink industry lower carbon footprint - Moira Stalker

During Covid-19 our Scottish food and drink businesses innovated rapidly putting in place new processes, adapting and learning new skills to keep the nation fed. Ultimately supporting our businesses on their journey to achieve Net Zero.

Moira Stalker, Skills Manager, Food and Drink Federation Scotland
Moira Stalker, Skills Manager, Food and Drink Federation Scotland

Our food and drink manufacturers are fully committed to playing their part to deliver a more sustainable food system. I was delighted to see that our UK members have reduced onsite carbon emissions by 55 per cent, five years before our 2025 target. Building on this success we recently announced our Net Zero by 2040 ambition.

The food and drink manufacturing industry has always needed employees with high level science, technology engineering and maths skills to drive innovation and growth. This demand continues to grow in part driven by the demand for ‘green skills’ to meet Net Zero.

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But what are ‘green skills’? As Skills Development Scotland (SDS) highlight in their Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan there is no single agreed definition of ‘green skills’ and this is a term that is often used interchangeably with ‘net zero skills’, ‘or ‘climate emergency skills’. Essentially, ‘green skills’ help industries – including food and drink manufacturing – lower their carbon footprint.

We don’t know exactly what green skills food and drink manufacturers will need and what new technologies will emerge as it’s an evolving area. SDS is undertaking research to identify emerging green skills and we await the outcome with interest as this will inform FDF Scotland’s skills work to support food and drink manufacturers develop a skilled workforce with the green skills needed.

What is clear is that businesses will be adopting different business models and adopting new production and packaging processes and strategies to reduce waste and lower energy use. Innovation, adaptability, creativity, analytical and technical skills will be required.

Data management and analysis, digital skills, AI and robotics are becoming even more important as the industry increases the use of automated manufacturing processes. This is helping our food and drink businesses to make their processes more streamlined and sustainable. It is also freeing up their people to develop higher level skills and employ meta skills such as teamwork, communication and collaboration to drive innovation and reduce waste.

It is an exciting time to join the industry. Our businesses are on the hunt for new talent with fresh ideas and skills that will help them meet their sustainability and green ambitions. If you are interested in food and drink and in helping Scotland meet our Net Zero targets, please consider joining the food and drink industry.

There are many ways into a career in food and drink – including; direct entry, apprenticeships, college and university. Many of our members value apprenticeships as a great way to find talented people, upskill employees and support succession planning.

For Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) investing in their people is supporting future success and helping them achieve their environmental ambitions. Seamus Kerrigan who is the Operations Director at their East Kilbride site, recently said: “Our people are at the heart of our operations at CCEP, so investing in the leaders of the future is vital. We have a strong early careers programme, with nine apprentices currently employed at our East Kilbride site. With their passion for the environment, and making sure we operate sustainably, these young people are playing a vital role in driving our sustainability strategy, which underpins everything we do.

“As we seek to meet the Scottish Government’s target to achieve net zero emissions in Scotland by 2045, a number of our apprentices have played a pivotal role in major carbon-reduction initiatives including the roll-out of our Capri-Sun line, which now produces paper straws, and the introduction of our on-the-go bottles made from 100 per cent recycled plastic – due to go into production later this month.”

Investing in skills and people is vital to ensuring Scotland becomes a world leader in tackling the climate emergency. We will continue to work with food and drink businesses, SDS, Scottish Government and partners to make this ambition a reality.

Moira Stalker, Skills Manager, Food and Drink Federation Scotland

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