| Blogs |

How IGD is uniting the food industry as it seeks to train 25,000 young people by 2023 

Sarah McCarthy at IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution) tells us how they're adapting to virtual work experience and how they are helping equip young people with the skills and capability to thrive in the workplace. 

The food and consumer goods industry has always been a fast-paced and exciting place to work but the onset of COVID-19 at the start of 2020 thrust us well and truly into the national spotlight with organisations and individuals working tirelessly to keep the nation fed in a time of a crisis.

As the pandemic has evolved the industry has continually innovated and adapted, from expanding capacity in online shopping to implementing a raft of safety measures in stores so we can continue to shop safely; the speed of change has been incredible.

And as well as responding to the very critical elements of a global pandemic, the industry has come together with IGD to help support students, providing vital employability skills training through online workshops.

Delivering meaningful interactions in an online world

IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution) has a long heritage of providing people with opportunities to develop their employability and life skills and our employability programmes have trained over 50,000 young people to date. In the pre-COVID world, through our Feeding Britain’s Future programme, we created structured opportunities for students to spend quality time with industry professionals in workshops held in schools. Of course, as schools closed and the country in and out of lockdown, we had to create a new way to reach young people, while also responding to rising levels of unemployment.

We heard from schools that they were still keen to help students prepare for the world of work and so we devised a digital version of the programme that combines our online resources with live webinar events and allows students to access our schools programme from home.

Furthermore, to help tackle rising unemployment, we launched our virtual work experience programme in August 2020. The programme harnesses our industry’s huge amount of energy and enthusiasm for people development and equips young people with the capability and potential to thrive in the workplace.

Overall, we helped 6,000 young people in 2020, with the support of 500 volunteers from 50 companies in the food and consumer goods industry. By working together, we can build employability and workplace skills to create better opportunities and drive productivity.

Trained over 500 young people in February alone

Through our partnership with the Department of Work and Pensions and by holding the sessions online we can reach hundreds of young people, providing them with vital support and training in a time they need it most.

The latest work experience week in February, trained over 500 young, unemployed people and was supported by some incredible retailers and manufacturers in our industry. Participants heard from 18 industry professionals, ranging from CEO to apprentice, providing unrivalled advice and insight into the world of work in food and consumer goods, which is the UK’s largest private sector employer. Industry experts focused on specific topics including engineering, sales and marketing, sustainability, and technology, highlighting key areas where there are known skills gaps for the industry.

These passionate volunteers bring the industry to life, providing much-needed contact between professionals and young, unemployed people and deliver essential employability skills training to boost confidence and help people kick start their career.

Virtual work experience opportunities available from May

Our next virtual work experience programme starts on 24 May and as well as supporting young, unemployed people, it is also open to students in Year 10 through to Year 13. In this way, we can help provide experiences of the working world to students who would normally be undertaking physical work placements.

Our virtual work experience programme is a key part of our mission to train 25,000 young people by 2023, providing invaluable opportunities for participants to develop their employability and life skills. The feedback we get from young people – with 91% saying that the programme helped them to develop their understanding of the skills used in the world of work – coupled with anecdotal feedback from industry volunteers, highlights how much both groups value this experience and the tangible impact it has. Some 86% of participants told us they feel more confident about their employment prospects as a result of attending the programme.

A participant of IGD’s work experience week said:

“The masterclasses were very informative and have given me the confidence to go forward with my job search. I was amazed to understand how many different roles there are in the food industry and have really developed my employability skills.”

Teachers and careers leaders can register students to take part below:

Register here