National call for food and drink STEM ambassadors

14/08/2023

FOOD and drink employers across Scotland are being urged to nominate their STEM Ambassadors to inspire the next generation of the workforce.

And Scottish salmon producer Bakkafrost is already on board, with 10 Ambassadors offering their time and enthusiasm to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects to life.

A network of food & drink Ambassadors is being developed within the STEM Ambassadors in Scotland programme to make food and drink a career destination of choice. 

With people and skills identified as one of the ways to drive growth in the sector, the initiative plays a key part in supporting young people’s education, illuminating careers and raising aspirations.

Labour supply challenges

Food and drink is one of Scotland’s largest employers, expected to employ over 77,000 people by 2031, spread across a huge range of different jobs.

Moira Stalker, Skills Manager at Food and Drink Federation Scotland, said “Our industry is the third largest sector employer in Scotland and the biggest manufacturing employer.

“However, the sector continues to experience significant staffing shortages, due to a combination of labour supply challenges, fierce competition from other industries and a scarcity of skills. 

“Our recently launched industry growth strategy has identified the need to build a compelling proposition around the diverse range of jobs and careers available within the industry.

“STEM Ambassadors support this by not only delivering world-leading education, but by inspiring young people and building that pipeline of talent we need in the food & drink industry.”

Local communities

As a leading producer of the finest quality Scottish salmon, Bakkafrost operates over 60 sites across the west coast of Scotland and the Hebrides.

Mathilda Lomas, their Veterinary Practice and Cleanerfish Manager and one of the Ambassadors, said: “I love informing and inspiring young people, and students find the range of careers available genuinely surprising.

“Bakkafrost operates in some of the most rural parts of Scotland, and it’s great to engage with local communities to help them understand what we do. We need the next generation of fish farmers to come into the sector so it’s a great opportunity to spread the word. 

“There’s more to it than just feeding fish: you’re a mathematician, you’re a scientist, you’re a vet. You can be so many things.”

Real-life experiences

The STEM Ambassadors in Scotland programme is delivered by SSERC, a charity which supports the science and technology area of the curriculum.  

Chief Executive Alastair MacGregor said: “The Ambassadors work in – or are studying – STEM subjects and volunteer to work with young people to bring those subjects alive through real-life experiences.

“We currently support over 4,500 Ambassadors in Scotland to deliver engaging STEM experiences for schools, community and youth groups.

“As employers engage with the food and drink Ambassador programme, they can make a real difference to young people’s perception of STEM subjects and careers and as well as showcasing up the vast array of employment opportunities in this sector, it provides professional learning and development opportunities for staff. 

“And feedback shows that the Ambassadors increase their own job satisfaction and knowledge, as well as confidence and communication skills.”

Training and support are offered to businesses who sign up to the programme, as well as free enhanced PVG checks, safeguarding training and easy access to resources and volunteering opportunities through a centralised hub.

More information can be found at www.stemambassadors.scot or by getting in touch at info@foodeducationscotland.scot

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