Act now to train the UK's first food engineers

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Nestlé boss urges action to promote the course to students
Nestlé boss urges action to promote the course to students

Related tags Sheffield hallam university Sheffield Food and drink federation

A concerted PR, marketing and social media campaign needs to be quickly launched if the 40 places on the first accredited food and drink engineering course are to be filled.

The four-year master's degree which begins in September 2014 at Sheffield Hallam University has been established to solve the chronic skills shortage in food and drink engineering.

The project is being delivered through a partnership of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink and Sheffield Hallam University. The degree has also received investment from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills through the Employer Investment Fund.

Until now, a great deal of the focus has been on getting manufacturers to support the scheme through work placements, lectures and bursaries. However, only 27 of the 40 work placements have been secured.

Now is the time

Angela Coleshill, director of employment, skills and corporate services at the FDF, told a launch event in Sheffield last month that it was now time to start attracting students for the 40 places on the course.

"If students don't know about us by October we will potentially not fill the course,"​ she said.

Fiona Kendrick, chief executive and chairman of Nestlé UK and Ireland, said it would be crucial to target the course at the right students.

"This course will attract students who are maybe thinking of an apprenticeship or going to work at 18. This course will enable them to develop their education while also getting practical experience. Like everything else, the marketing will be key and we need to quickly get into sixth forms and further education colleges."

Coleshill said there were still lots of opportunities for manufacturers to get involved.

'Meet their obligations'

"We know that manufacturers will want to be sure that they can meet their obligations before they commit, but there are many ways they can help.

"In terms of financial support, for example, it doesn't have to be about bursaries. Sometimes, the offer of a laptop or money for books can be a big incentive and would help us attract candidates."

Meanwhile, poultry processor Moy Park has announced a £6M new training and skills drive to deliver leadership and management training, as well as initiatives to support advances in innovation, IT and productivity.

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