Blackburn College has been chosen to spearhead a £1.5million 'Farm to Fork' programme aimed at boosting skills in Lancashire's economically important hospitality, food and agriculture sectors.

It is one of three new projects being developed under Lancashire's £4.5m Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF) using a government grant.

The Blackburn College-led 'Farm to Fork' programme will also involve Myerscough College, Blackpool and the Fylde College, Lancaster and Morecambe College, Runshaw College, and West Lancashire College.

It will focus on the skills associated with farming and growing catering and hospitality and the measures needed to increase sustainability in the region’s food industry.

The programme will also seek to boost recruitment into the sector.

It was described as 'exciting' by Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Phil Riley and 'positive' by the authority's education boss Cllr Julie Gunn.

In the second of the programmes Burnley College will lead a collaborative digital, cyber and AI employability skills scheme with local businesses.

Preston College will co-ordinate a 'Skills for Sustainability' project around the development of new net-zero carbon technologies in the construction, energy and transport sectors.

The three programmes are being delivered under the £4.5m LSIF awarded to The Lancashire Colleges by the Department for Education.

The investment will enable the county's further education providers to address the priorities in the Lancashire Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) by building state-of-the-art training facilities, developing new courses, providing the latest technology and engaging with local employers to develop the skills needed for students make successful careers in the region’s most important sectors.

The LSIP earlier this year highlighted the food and agriculture industry as a pillar of growth for the county alongside tourism and culture.

However, it noted that jobs have not grown in this sector since 2015 and that attracting new talent was difficult creating an increasing reliance upon temporary or part-time staff.

The Farm to Fork project aims to overcome widely-held misconceptions to attract more people to the industry and promote the variety of careers available.

Students will learn skills through work experience with employers including the Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa, The Eden Project, Samlesbury Hall, and Food Futures.

Sustainability and environmental impact will be a focal point from the way food is produced to how it is transported, cooked and consumed.

The role food plays in our health, the welfare of livestock, the environmental impact of farming and food waste will also be addressed.

Dr Fazal Dad, principal of Blackburn College, said: “The hospitality, food and agriculture industries are of critical importance both in our region and globally.

"Blackburn College is pleased to be leading the 'Farm to Fork' programme and collaborating with the other Lancashire Colleges to ensure that more people can gain the skills that will enable them to move into careers that will contribute to economic growth and environmental progress in our region.”

Cllr Riley said: "It was highlighted in the run up to the devolution deal that developing new skills for Lancashire residents was vital to increasing productivity and growing the local economy.

"How exciting then that Blackburn College has been chosen to lead a programme built around new skills in food production with a concentration on the importance of sustainability in the modern world."

Cllr Gunn said: "I am pleased that the college is recognised and look forward to working with them in achieving the aims of good education around healthy and sustainable foods in particular.

"This is really positive for our borough's young people and compliments Blackburn with Darwen Council's focus on the links between health and diet in achieving good outcomes."