Young Co-operative farmers help tackle youth unemployment

July 19, 2013 by The Co-operative Food Young-Co-operative-farmers

Three apprentice farmers from The Co-operative’s fruit farms rubbed shoulders with Ministers and MPs in London as part of a national scheme to encourage young unemployed people into the food industry.

Michael Simmons, who works at The Co-operative Farms’ Highland Court estate, near Canterbury, and Colin Schenk and Kamil Peno, from The Co-operative’s fruit farm in Tillington, Hereford, joined Nick Folland, The Co-operative’s Group Director, External Affairs; Richard Quinn, Head of The Co-operative Farms, along with other retail industry delegates who attended the event in Westminster to support national initiative “Feeding Britain’s Future – Skills for Work Month”, which takes place in September.

More than 40 MPs, including four Ministers, as well as over 20 businesses from across the supply chain, attended the event, which announced that 12,000 young unemployed people across 1,000 locations will be offered free training in CV writing and interview techniques.

Skills for Work Month, which is organised by industry think-tank the Institute for Grocery Distribution (IGD), aims to offer young unemployed people opportunities to help them prepare for the workplace and introduce them to the various roles within food retail and manufacture.

During September, The Co-operative Food, one of the biggest supporters of the campaign, will offer more than 2,800 places for young unemployed people in 85 locations around the UK. The workshops will provide young people, particularly those in disadvantaged areas, training in the skills they need to secure jobs, such as creating a CV and interview techniques.

Michael, Colin and Kamil Peno were joined by Sophie Wilesmith and Anna Bird, from Pixley Berries, which produces The Co-operative’s own-brand apple juice, to showcase how the juice is produced from apples grown at The Co-operative’s farms.

Michael, who joined The Co-operative Farms in February 2012 and is studying for NVQ qualifications in Horticultural and Arable Farming, said: “This was a great opportunity for us to attend the event which celebrated the Feeding Britain’s Future campaign and meet Ministers and MPs, including Matt Hancock, Minister for Skills, Jo Swinson MP and Mark Spencer MP, and also help promote the food industry as a career choice for young unemployed people.

“We’ve learned a great deal since we joined The Co-operative Farms, and we’ve found the work really rewarding, and this was an opportunity for us to talk about my experiences and hopefully encourage young unemployed people to consider the food industry as a career option.”

Feeding Britain’s Future – Skills for Work Month is designed by food and grocery experts, IGD, to bring together businesses from the entire food and grocery industry to play a vital role in tackling youth unemployment.

Steve Murrells, Chief Executive, Retail, The Co-operative Group, added: “As youth unemployment continues to hover around the one million mark, more needs to be done to improve young people’s skills and boost their employability to help them make the most of the opportunities that are available and, ultimately, get them into work.

“All businesses, including The Co-operative Food, have a major part to play in trying to tackle youth unemployment, otherwise we could face a generation of young people lost from the labour market. By helping young people, who have so much to offer the working world, and tapping into their true potential, we could help create a talented workforce for the future.

“The Co-operative is committed to helping young people get into work and, as part of the IGD’s Feeding Britain’s Future initiative, we are delighted to get behind this innovative scheme once again and offer more than 2,800 places in 85 locations across the UK, to arm them with the vital skills, such as CV writing and interview techniques, they need to help them secure jobs.”

For further information on the Feeding Britain’s Future – Skills for Work Month go to: 

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