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Feeding Britain's Future: A conversation with IGD

We sat down with Sarah McCarthy, Employability Programmes Manager at IGD (The Institute of Grocery Distribution) to discuss what they’re doing to bring the industry to life for teachers and young people and how their Educator Hub and free online schools programme can be used for remote learning.  

Tell us about IGD and the work you do to support the food and grocery industry?

IGD is a research and training charity and our whole purpose is to support the food and consumer goods industry, which we’ve been doing for well over a hundred years! Our charitable programmes fall into four areas of activity – People, Health & Wellness, Sustainability and Economic Analysis.

Our People programme has wide scope; from developing employability skills of students at school to training and developing people working in the industry through a wide range of free learning activities. But all aimed at upskilling and developing people to be the best they can be. 

Feeding Britain’s Future is one such initiative and is devised to help school students develop the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Our school programmes bring to life the wide range of food and grocery careers and helps our industry to develop a skilled talent pipeline for the future. We focus on helping students understand and develop the soft transferable skills they need to thrive in the workplace.

And we’re very proud of this project – which is delivered for free up and down the country. To date, we’ve trained over 50,000 secondary school students with the help of professional volunteers from over 200 companies that have volunteered 18,000 hours. The companies that support Feeding Britain’s Future represent the breadth and diversity of our industry and include the big household names of the food retailers on our high streets, and manufacturers of the iconic brands that sit in our cupboards. As such, Feeding Britain’s Future is the largest programme of its type in the country and is truly unique because it involves so many companies.

Have you had to adapt or change your approach to supporting the grocery industry during Covid-19?

We’ve adapted many of our charitable projects in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak. And Feeding Britain’s Future is no exception. At the heart of this programme we create structured opportunities for students to spend quality time with industry professionals. Of course, with schools closed and the country in lockdown, creating these new opportunities had to be done in another way.

We heard from schools that they were still keen to help students prepare for the world of work and so we have 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.

Before the webinar starts, students watch our short skills video that introduces them to three young people working in the industry. The live webinar session then starts, providing students with the opportunity to meet professionals from the food and consumer goods industry to learn more about their jobs, the skills they use at work and the impact of Coronavirus on their role. At the end of the webinar, students complete activities from our online hub so they continue to develop their employability skills.

How has IGD been working to bring the industry to life for teachers and young people?

Feeding Britain’s Future creates a structured opportunity for students to spend quality time with people working in the food and consumer goods industry. This interaction is at the heart of the programme because we know that these quality conversations lead to increased skills, knowledge, and attraction to the industry. Research by the Gatsby Foundation highlights the importance of bringing industry into classrooms to support schools with their career strategies and what better way to learn about an industry than hear directly from someone working in it!

What can your Educator Hub offer teachers and students for remote learning?

As we started our work in the education sector it became quickly apparent how important it is to help teachers talk about the food and consumer goods industry; with limited time and resources they are often unable to give advice to students about a specific industry. They are also key in providing careers advice – in research we did of 1,000 students, 64% said they got their careers advice from teachers.

Therefore, our Educator Hub was designed to help bridge this gap for the food and consumer goods industry. It offers teachers and careers advisors six ready-made lesson plans with activities all focused on different employability skills and based on real-life case studies of young people working in our industry. All the resources can be downloaded and completed virtually, perfect for the current situation! The hub also showcases a range of industry careers and highlights how the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are vital to our industry.

With the spotlight being on key workers and the food and grocery industry during these challenging times, what can IGD offer the education sector?

As well as providing much needed support to schools, our digital programme showcases the fantastic people who work in the food and consumer goods industry. The industry has always been an exciting place to work but now it is really in the national spotlight and can offer great opportunities to young people who may be worried about their future. Advice from our virtual volunteers can help students prepare for the world of work and provides a great understanding of the skills we need most for the future success of the industry – something that I’m sure the whole nation would be behind!

Visit the IGD’s Educator Hub here and access their resources for free.

About the author

Becky Hipkiss

Becky works across a range of clients at Hopscotch as an Account Director, leading on the GSK STEM Education programme and a new video-led digital platform for Sport England. She has extensive experience in digital and marketing education-focused campaigns, having previously worked on a number of high profile youth programmes covering STEM, citizenship and health and wellbeing, including with the British Olympic and Paralympic Association and It's a Monthly Thing. 

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