The awards were made to Holly Russell, a technical auditor and Anthony Gorman, technical team manager, both with Natures Way Foods (see picture); and Sarah Mearns, who has worked for the past two years as a quality technician, and Leanne Patrick, for the past 18 months working as a microbiologist, with Britvic.
The news follows the licensing of the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) by the Science Council as an accrediting body for RSciTech training. IFST chief executive Jon Poole is currently in discussions with 12 other food and drink companies about RSciTech qualifications for their technicians.
Providing professional recognition for food technicians will ensure that their value is properly recognised and that they are given the technical and professional support they need to develop in their roles, said the IFST.
The food industry’s problems in attracting skilled people at all levels and in the numbers it needs is well documented. At technician level it is particularly critical and the IFST believes its new professional register for those working in technician roles can help to resolve this issue.
“The chronic shortage of skills within all elements of the food chain are an increasing concern,” said Poole. “Those in technician-based roles, whether in food safety, quality control, new product development or supply chain management, all play critical roles and need to be supported and recognised for their work.”
From recent Science Council research, there are believed to be an estimated 21,000 people working directly in food science roles but a further 117,000 working in roles requiring some element of technology or science. Many of these can be classed as technicians.
They may be employed in roles as diverse as food safety, quality assurance, plant science and process management as well as logistics and packaging.
The IFST argues that providing professional recognition to technicians in these fields can bring real benefits to both the individuals and the companies that employ them.
In particular, it will help to raise skills levels through a heightened focus on personal skills and behaviours. It will help to improve morale and self-esteem, which should help firms to retain their staff. It will also lead to clearer career and development pathways and make recruitment easier, claimed the IFST.
“Attracting, retaining and developing talent within our industry is a central part of FDF’s shared vision with government, to grow the food and drink sector by 20% by 2020,” said Melanie Leech, director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) at the presentation event.
“I am delighted to be supporting IFST in the launch of the new RSciTech award, to provide professional recognition for those working in our industry in a wide range of essential technical roles, as an important way in which their skills can be recognised, supported and further developed.”
For more details: www.ifst.org/professional_development/newregisters