Food industry summer school spots new talent

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

On top form: student Martha Collison submitted the prize-winning review article, after her introduction to food and drink manufacturing at Nottingham University
On top form: student Martha Collison submitted the prize-winning review article, after her introduction to food and drink manufacturing at Nottingham University
This summer 51 pupils went to school to learn about the food industry and lay the foundations of a career in food and drink manufacturing.

Key points

The University of Nottingham is playing an important role in encouraging young people to embark upon careers in food manufacture by inviting each year school pupils thinking of going into tertiary education to attend a Summer School to get a taster of the great opportunities on offer.

This summer Nottingham opened its doors to 51 Year 11 pupils (aged 15–16) from 44 schools around the UK for three days from Wednesday July 3 to Friday July 5. The event gave them a flavour of what food science and technology is all about.

This was Nottingham’s fifth Summer School, which began in 2009 with 18 students. It is designed to complement a Summer School run by the University of Reading for Year 12 students to help them make appropriate A-level choices prior to starting a university degree.

Finance (Return to top)

Nottingham’s Summer School is financed by the Chilled Food Association (CFA), 2 Sisters Food Group, think-tank IGD's technical leadership forum, ABP, Bakkavör, the Co-operative Group, Dairy Crest, the Institute of Food Science & Technology, GA Petfoods, Greencore, Jordans-Ryvita, Marks & Spencer, McCain, Morrisons, NewlyWed Foods, Sainsbury and Waitrose.

Other firms that supported the event by running activities/factory visits, etc, included: Arla Foods, Kerry Foods, Martec; Festo; Rockwell Automation, STISlimsoft, Lallemand, Nestlé, PepsiCo, S&A Foods and Samworth Brothers.

A full programme of academic and practical activities over the three days covered learning about sensory and flavour perception, microbiology activity, food structure, and a food nutrition lecture. The students also attended the Lord Haskins endowed lecture and dinner, this year given by Carole Stewart, former technical director of Northern Foods. This event provided an opportunity for the students to mix and network with sponsors from industry. Previous speakers have been IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch, Sainsbury boss Justin King, Peter Lillford and Lord Haskins himself.

Following their attendance, the students were asked for their feedback on the Summer School. From the submissions made, a shortlist was compiled and from this a winner was selected by CFA secretary general Kaarin Goodburn, together with the editors of Food Manufacture.

The winning entry was Martha Collison, who attends Charters School in Ascot. Martha's winning submission can be seen in the panel on the left of this page.

Raising awareness (Return to top)

“The aim of the Summer School is to raise awareness of the opportunities available to young people in the food industry and for them to find out more about what it would be like to study a food science related degree at university,”​ says Dr Judith Wayte, BSc /MSc placement co-ordinator at the University of Nottingham's Sutton Bonington Campus in Loughborough.

Such events are important because of the impending skills shortfall facing the food industry. It hopes to counter some of the negative views of food science held by science teachers and careers advisers.

Martha Collison’s winning Summer School review article (Return to top)

The University of Nottingham Food Science Summer School was a fantastic and rare experience as it is not often that people my age are able to get a feel for university life.

I decided to go on the course because I love food and cooking, but I knew I didn't want to be a chef and had always been interested about why food is like it is and the scientific side of it. The course was brilliant because I learnt so much about food science and had lots of fun at the same time!

It was incredibly well organised with a perfect balance of informative talks and fun activities, but also time to make new friends and enjoy the beautiful campus. We were kept really busy for the entire week, which meant there was never a dull moment and we really made the most of our time there.

The ability to use the facilities like the labs, food processing hall and the sports centre ensured that we had an experience that an open day or viewing just can’t offer, and staying in university halls was another invaluable experience that made it even easier to imagine what studying at Nottingham would be like.

The staff and student ambassadors were very friendly and helpful, which made the days even better, and they could also answer any questions we had and tell us about their experiences, which was really useful. As well as a visit to a local food manufacturer: PepsiCo, another highlight of the time was the Lord Haskins’ lecture and formal dinner with representatives from the sponsoring food companies.

Carole Stewart, who previously worked as a director at Northern Foods, delivered an inspiring and interesting lecture about the lessons she had learnt from working in the food industry. It was also helpful to be able to speak to the food company representatives about how they got to where they are now and to discover more about their careers.

Overall, it was an outstanding, influential few days, delivered by people passionate about the industry that helped me to envisage what studying a food-related degree at university would be like. I would strongly recommend anyone considering food science to apply next year and want to thank all the staff and student ambassadors for giving up their time to organise and run the summer school. I want to do it again!

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