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Feeding Ireland's Future 2015

By Steve Wynne-Jones
Feeding Ireland's Future 2015

With the economy finally presenting long-awaited signs of recovery, ECR Ireland’s extensive work to engage the workforce is more important than ever. Hannah Popham reports on the latest iteration of its Feeding Ireland’s Future project, which took place in March.

Last year, ECR Ireland teamed up with the Department of Social Protection to launch Feeding Ireland’s Future, an initiative aimed at developing workplace skillsets among Ireland’s ‘next generation’. According to the latest statistics from the Department of Social Protection, Ireland’s unemployment rate stands at 10.4%, with youth unemployment higher still – all the more reason for initiatives that help to propel young people into a workplace environment.

With this in mind, last month saw the hosting of the second annual Feeding Ireland’s Future: Skills for Work Week. The week-long event saw over 1,200 young people given the opportunity to gain skills they need for future employment by visiting 27 participating companies in 54 different locations around the country. These included developing pre-employment skills, advising on CVs, interview training and behind-the-scenes tours of several different work environments, including farms, factories, depots, stores and offices. Examples of these excursions included a journey to the Keelings facility in North Dublin, examining the journey of strawberries ‘from soil to store’, and another to Kellogg’s, to gain insight about cereal production.

Some of the biggest players in the grocery sector were also involved in the Skills for Work Week, and included BWG Foods, Coca-Cola, Musgrave Group, Nestlé, Tesco, P&G Foods and Unilever.

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Musgrave Group’s involvement in the week-long event tackled issues such as social-media reputation, CV preparation, application and cover-letter drafting, and interview preparation, with around 350 jobseekers participating in its career development sessions.

Adrian Grey, Musgrave Group’s HR director, explained that the support of the companies involved in the initiative is of paramount importance for the future of the Irish workforce.

“As the largest private-sector employer in Ireland, we want to give young unemployed people an insight into the range of careers available in the Irish food industry, with particular focus on our retail and wholesale businesses. We hope to inspire young people taking part in the initiative to pursue a career in the food sector, helping to boost one of the most important industries for the Irish economy.”

Also taking part in this year’s event was Unilever, which provided workshops on CV writing and employability programmes. “As one of the founding members of the Feeding Ireland’s Future initiative, we were delighted to again support Skills for Work Week,” said Nick Johnson, MD of Unilever Ireland. “Through our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we are committed to helping to promote youth employability, and this initiative is a key element of our skills training programme. During the week, we provided young people in Dublin and Cork with advice on interview preparation and CV writing. They also got a unique insight into brand development, food marketing, and the operations of Ireland’s grocery business.”

According to Declan Carolan of ECR Ireland, 98% of last year’s participants felt that partaking in Skills for Work Week was worthwhile, a figure that he anticipates will be similar to this year’s events and training. With the FMCG and retail industries now fully engaged in initiatives like these, tackling Ireland’s youth unemployment is now a full-time job.

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