Apprentice Tom from Wisbech rubs shoulders with the Prime Minister

AN apprentice farmer from a Co-operative farm in Fenland rubbed shoulders with the Prime Minister at Downing Street yesterday as part of a national scheme to help encourage young unemployed people into the food industry.

Tom Mack, 17, who works at the Coldham Estate, near Wisbech, was at a reception at number 10 with Peter Marks, Group Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group, and other retail industry delegates to officially launch “Feeding Britain’s Future - Skills for Work Week”.

The nationwide campaign runs from September 17-21, and aims to offer young unemployed people opportunities to help them prepare for the workplace and introduce them to the various roles within food retail and manufacture.

The Co-operative Food, one of the biggest supporters of the initiative, will offer sessions for more than 3,200 young unemployed people in just over 90 locations around the UK. The sessions will provide young people, particularly those in disadvantaged areas, training in the skills they need to help them secure jobs, such as creating a CV and interview techniques.

Tom, who joined The Co-operative Farms in July and will start studying for NVQ qualifications in crop production this autumn, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for me to visit 10 Downing Street and meet the Prime Minister for the official launch of Skills for Work Week, and to help promote the food industry as a career choice for young unemployed people.

“Since I joined Co-operative Farms I’ve learnt a great deal and found the work really rewarding, and it will be a great chance for me to talk about my experiences, and hopefully encourage and inspire young unemployed people to consider the exciting and various roles the food industry has to offer.”

Peter Marks, Group Chief Executive, The Co-operative Group, added: “With youth unemployment escalating to more than one million, businesses have a real responsibility to tackle the issue. We all have a part to play, and by supporting this initiative and investing in young people today, we can help provide them with the confidence and knowledge to make the most of the employment opportunities that are out there, helping to create a talented workforce for the future.

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“The Co-operative is committed to helping young people into work, through schemes such as our apprenticeship academy, which is on track to provide 2,000 apprenticeships for young people by 2014.

“The scheme offers proper jobs with nationally recognised qualifications and genuine career prospects throughout our group of businesses, from food and farming through to logistics, right across the UK.”

For further information on the Skills for Work Week initiative go to

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