7,300 extra skilled workers needed for Norfolk and Suffolk’s food industry by 2024

A new AgriFood Tech Skills Plan has been developed to meet the needs of the sector in Norfolk and Su

A new AgriFood Tech Skills Plan has been developed to meet the needs of the sector in Norfolk and Suffolk. Picture: Jim Rice / New Anglia LEP. - Credit: Jim Rice / New Anglia LEP

A projected demand for 7,300 extra skilled workers in Norfolk and Suffolk's 'agrifood tech' sector by 2024 has sparked the launch of new skills plan for the region.

The AgriFood Tech Skills Plan has been developed by industry representatives working alongside the New Anglia LEP's (Local Enterprise Partnership's) Skills Board, supported by SkillsReach.

The LEP says the New Anglia region is a UK leader in the food sector – despite accounting for only 2pc of the UK's population, Norfolk and Suffolk represents 11pc of the country's agricultural output, more than any other LEP area.

The sector currently employs an estimated 50,000 people across the two counties – making up 7.4pc of the workforce, which is double the national average.

But by 2024 the proportion of staff employed in skilled trades is expected to rise to 59%, meaning the industry will need a further 7,300 workers qualified to QCF ?????(Qualifications and Credit Framework) Level Four or above – including higher national certificates, degrees and doctorates.

Paul Winter, chairman of New Anglia LEP's Skills Board, said: 'The importance of the AgriFood Tech sector, both to our local economy and the UK as a whole, cannot be underestimated.

'We have carried out the research to identify the skills needs of the sector in the future, and formulated a detailed plan to meet them. Now the hard work of implementing that plan begins.'

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The plan aims to bring industry and education closer together – prioritising the skills needed in agriculture and food production, but also those needed by the technology businesses and research institutes which support the industry.

The top priority is to set up an 'AgriFood Tech Skills Group', whose goals will include:

• Co-ordinating careers promotion.

• Developing new progression routes to Higher Education.

• Developing a new Higher Education Centre to meet the shortfall in technical education.

• Developing the supply of trainers and a workforce development programme.

Doug Field, chairman of New Anglia LEP and its food, drink and agriculture board, said: 'Our farming and food industry plays a key part in driving the success of our economy in the East. We are rightly proud of our leading position both nationally and globally.

'But we can't rest on reputation alone. We will only succeed if we are competitive and, in achieving our goal, arguably nothing is as critical as the skills and expertise of our workforce. I'm confident this plan can deliver that success.'