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Developing green skills for the sustainable food production workforce

First Hand has launched a place-based training and skills programme to develop and embed green skills into food production and manufacturing to support the green transformation of the industry.

First Hand at The Felix Project food redistribution centre. Credit: First Hand

First Hand at The Felix Project food redistribution centre. Credit: First Hand

First Hand is a new project that aims to accelerate change within the urban food system to have a positive impact on the environment. Through place-based learning in real-world environments, the programme will connect learners with innovative ideas, practices and people, and develop their skills through hands-on collaboration. 

Launching in autumn 2024, the First Hand programme addresses the transformative green skills needed in the evolving workforce as shared by the UK Parliament POST (January 2024):

  • Skills for a green transformation: systems thinking; working with complexity; coalition building
  • Green life skills: collaboration; leadership; problem solving

Often overlooked, these skills are complementary to technical skills such as engineering, science or marketing. 

First Hand aims to upskill and reskill the current workforce and hopefully attract more people into a sector that is centred on future skills development.

The programme can be delivered in partnership with organisations and workplaces or to groups of people from across the sector who can sign up. It will support internal organisational goals such as learning and development; recruitment and onboarding; and employee engagement.

Learning takes place in real-world manufacturing and food production environments, providing immersive field trips over 0.5 to 2 days. Longer sessions allow for deeper collaborative work, development of knowledge and skills and strategic planning.  Activities can be tailored to take place within community action and to support supply chain collaboration to ensure that all touchpoints within the industry are reached.

Project Director Dee Halligan told us:

"First Hand is a response to the urgent need to build our capacity to innovate and change. Shifts in policy, regulation and supply chains are only some of the many factors which require us to work differently, more creatively and more collaboratively.

Alongside formal qualification and learning pathways we need new and inclusive ways to share new ideas and practices. That’s what the First Hand learning programme is doing; by going straight to the places and people driving change - the production plant, market or farm - we immerse learners in small parts of the future they want and need to create. They leave inspired, challenged, more networked, and always better equipped to play their part.”

Throughout the development phase of the project, First Hand utilised Roots to Work to recruit a content and curriculum consultant as well as learners to engage with prototypes.

Sareta Puri, Diversity Outreach Coordinator at Sustain, is a member of the project's Learning Venture - a Community of Practice that brings together practitioners from non-profits, local government, academic and industry to share and drive progress across parts of the sector. Exploring how the programme can meet the need to create a more diverse and inclusive sustainable food workforce will be one area on the Sustain agenda.

Sareta said:

"Being part of the Learning Venture is an excellent opportunity for me and Sustain to spotlight the need for more representation of people from minoritised backgrounds across all parts of the food system. By creating inclusive education and training practices across the sector we can work towards it being a leading industry that attracts, supports and retains more diverse talent that benefits the communities the workforce serves."

First Hand is gearing up for launch in autumn so watch this space for further updates. If you're in an organisation that could be a potential partner for First Hand do reach out to them - collaboration is key, after all! 

Find out more about the project via their website You can also follow First Hand on LinkedIn

Published Tuesday 25 June 2024

Roots to Work: Roots to Work is a platform for people to advertise and find jobs in the field of good food. We noticed there wasn’t a unique gathering place for good food opportunities to all sit together and felt it was time to make it happen in the UK.

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Sareta coordinates Sustain's diversity outreach work which aims to bring more people from underrepresented backgrounds, with specific focus on ethnic diversity, into the progressive food and farming sector. A core part of this work is outreach with younger people and students to inspire them to get involved in the movement. She manages Sustain’s Roots to Work jobs platform which is also a tool to engage new and diverse talent into the sector.

Sareta Puri
Diversity Outreach Coordinator

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