East Midlands food and drink firms planning to recruit graduates for permanent positions or placements are being urged to take advantage of grants available to help with their search for the right person.

The Food and Drink Forum has teamed up with East Midlands graduate recruitment organisation HotProspects on a two-year project to offer small and medium-sized food and drink companies grants towards the cost of recruiting a graduate, either for specific projects or for permanent placements.

Now it has been announced that grant funding for recruitment has been increased – making it the ideal time to get involved with the scheme.

Businesses signing up to the programme delivered by HotProspects will receive £1,000 towards the standard recruitment fees instead of the £500 that was previously offered, thanks to grant funding that has been made available in partnership from East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

“The programme provides support in the form of niche and technical search, graduate assessment centres and full service graduate recruitment to help businesses manage the recruitment process and find the best talent,” said Food and Drink Forum managing director Fiona Anderson.

“The food and drink sector is facing a skills shortage, but hiring a graduate can bring a number of benefits for a firm, such as introducing new skills to the business or giving a fresh perspective on something. Finding the right candidate can be time-consuming or difficult for a small or medium-sized business, so this project represents the perfect way for food and drink firms in the East Midlands to discover the pool of graduate talent that’s available.”

Graduates are available with a wide range of food and drink industry-relevant qualifications. One current example includes a graduate with an MSc in food technology and quality assurance from the University of Reading, who previously gained a first class Bachelor of Technology in bio-technology from a top engineering university. Fluent in three languages and with expertise in a range of techniques, including using nutritional software, conducting taste panels and sensory analysis, the graduate has good understanding of British Retail Consortium and EU/UK food regulations.

HotProspects programme director Iain McCracken said: “This grant-funded programme aims to support businesses and graduates in the region at a very challenging time in the employment landscape.

“The programme operates to help businesses and graduates connect on terms beneficial to each – brokering contracts that place graduates within organisations with schemes agreed from 2 weeks to 12 months and longer. The benefits of such a programme are clear – graduates gain valuable work experience that helps them connect with the market and businesses can access a skills resource that can make them better placed to emerge from the recession in a competitive position.

“We are finding that most strategically minded organisations view the current economic situation as an opportunity … to acquire the most talented individuals in their field. Forecasts indicate that many sectors still and will face a substantial shortfall in skill sets.

“Organisations that are far sighted will use this time, when many are not operating at full capacity, to invest in their staff and development programmes so that they are in the strongest position possible when we emerge from recession.

“The programme offers a low risk, low cost, option for businesses to trial the benefits of employing graduates and the initial response has been wholly positive. Companies see the advantages of a scheme that operates with such flexibility and that allows them to engage with the graduate pool in a time and cost efficient way.”

The Food and Drink Forum is based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, and is a membership organisation that offers support to businesses working in the food and drink sector in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland.

East Midlands food and drink businesses interested in finding out more about the graduate recruitment scheme should contact The Food and Drink Forum on 0115 9758810.