The Food and Drink Process Operator Standard is designed for food factory production line apprentices. Food manufacturing is one of the UK’s largest and most diverse industries. Production line apprentices may work in food factories producing anything from biscuits to ready meals. The Food and Drink Process Operator apprenticeship has been developed to provide robust production line training in a very competitive and sometimes high-risk industry. Modern food factories are highly automated, so food manufacturing apprentices need the skills and knowledge to operate machinery safely and efficiently. A food factory apprentice must also be familiar with health and safety practices and the importance of food safety. Working in food manufacturing involves teamwork. As well as learning how to use technical equipment and handle food products safely and hygienically, the production line apprentice will also become a good communicator, able to work well with their colleagues.
In addition to ‘on the job’ training, the Food and Drink Process Operator apprenticeship requires the apprentice to spend time ‘off the job’ to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours as outlined in the Standard.
As part of the apprenticeship production line apprentices will study for an accredited qualification as part of their production line training apprenticeship. This is called the Level 2 Diploma in Food and Drink Operations. The diploma underpins all the production line training in the standard and covers core topics such as food safety and HAACP, maintaining product quality, health, safety and environmental standards. Employers and apprentices can also select an optional unit to tailor the diploma to suit their business.
Firstly, all the new apprenticeship standards, including the Food and Drink Process Operator, are developed ‘by employers for employers.’ Nobody knows better what is needed in a job role than the employers themselves. Secondly, one of the biggest changes is that apprentices now don’t automatically qualify after ‘serving their time’. They need to prove their new skills at something called ‘end-point assessment’ or EPA. EPA is the name given to a series of tests that happen towards the end of an apprenticeship. Food production line apprentices must succeed at end-point assessment to achieve their food processing apprenticeship.
Funding for apprenticeships changed with the introduction of the Apprentice Levy in 2017.
Large food manufacturers (with a wage bill over £3million pa) now fund their apprenticeships through the levy. The levy is collected by HMRC at a rate of 0.5% of a business’s monthly wage bill.
Smaller employers (with an annual wage bill below £3m) fund their apprenticeships through co-investment with government as before. The ratio is now 9:1, meaning for every £900 the government invests in training, the employer’s contribution is just £100.
Also, employers are now free to negotiate with their approved training provider, to ensure that they get good value training that suits their business.
The Level 2 Food and Drink Process Operator Standard is a Band 8 apprenticeship, which attracts a maximum total funding rate of £5000, either via the apprentice levy or the co-investment model.