New programme to help upskill the fish processing workforce in Grimsby

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Grimsby’s seafood cluster is one of the largest in the northern hemisphere, employing over 5,500 directly in seafood and fish processing and another 10,000 in the supply chain.

The Grimsby seafood cluster has launched a £430,000 six-month UK Food Valley pilot programme to help upskill the fish processing workforce in Europe’s largest seafood cluster.

The move comes after reports of labour shortages and comment from some of the area’s employers about the difficulty of retaining staff.

Read more: Problems continue to face processors as Christmas season approaches

The pilot is supported by the National Centre of Food Manufacturing (NCFM) in Holbeach, part of the University of Lincoln, and is part of the Government’s Community Renewal Fund. It was a priority project supported by North East Lincolnshire Council and the Greater Lincolnshire LEP.

The seafood sector and the NCFM will use this pilot to shape a new centre for food processing education, research and innovation in Grimsby. Formal proposals are expected to be brought forward this year.

Drive forward growth
The aim is to ensure that the food processing cluster, centred on the seafood industry but also including expertise in other foods and food logistics and cold storage, has the expertise needed to drive forward growth.

Val Braybrooks, Dean of the National Centre for Food Manufacturing, is leading on the project with Simon Dwyer, a key figure in the seafood sector.

Speaking at the launch, Val said: “This fund is so exciting; it really opens up the opportunity to put some resources into Grimsby to help our businesses.

“The process was highly competitive. North East Lincolnshire Council has led the charge with a number of projects, and we’re really pleased we have got this piece of work to help our sector.

“We have got to make sure we deliver the huge impact everyone really wants, and we only have a short window of time. It finishes in June so we have a lot to do. We have a great team of people to work with and organisations such as Grimsby Institute, Seafish, North East Lincolnshire Council and the Grimsby and Humber Seafood Alliance.”

Hospitality and retail
The fund will support not just food manufacturing and processing but also hospitality and retail.

Simon Dwyer, who represents the scores of fish merchanting companies in Grimsby, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for all the businesses in the region, whether a large business or an independent mobile fishmonger, or somewhere in between.

“Grimsby’s seafood cluster is one of the largest in the northern hemisphere, employing over 5,500 directly in seafood and fish processing and another 10,000 in the supply chain.

“Most of these people working in the industry are living in North East Lincolnshire, processing fish coming from all over the world, some 30 species from 40 different countries. We are supplying all the major retailers and food service organisations throughout the UK and exporting, although that has been tricky with Brexit.

“We are home to the protected geographical indication for Traditional Grimsby Smoked Fish and we have world-class people working in the industry today interested in innovation, sustainability and marketing, doing great things.”