Premier Foods woos young people for food careers

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

MKC is helping the food industry communicate career opportunities to young people
MKC is helping the food industry communicate career opportunities to young people

Related tags Sheffield Sheffield hallam university

Premier Foods is wooing young people for future food industry careers with the launch of a work placement initiative and has doubled the number of engineering apprentices it is supporting.

“We have doubled the number of our apprentice engineers from 12 to 24 in the past year,”​ Premier Foods ceo Gavin Darby told delegates at an event in London organised by social enterprise group MyKindaCrowd (MKC).

His comments came as MKC revealed the results of a survey of more than 700 young people, two thirds of whom said they would not consider a career in food and drink. A total of 71% said they were unaware of the career opportunities available in the food and drink industry.

‘Focus on women’

Darby said Premier Foods had also launched a work placement scheme, for which it had taken on four food science students this year. “All are women,” ​he told “Our focus is particularly on women and food science.”

The four all hailed from Sheffield Hallam University, a renowned centre for food industry training, said Darby. The location of Sheffield Hallam was especially convenient, because it was close to Premier Foods’s food science laboratories in Yorkshire, he explained.

Darby said he was a strong supporter of the UK's first food engineering degree, the MEng in food engineering, which began its first term at Sheffield Hallam on September 29. He stressed the looming shortage of qualified UK food engineers.

He was appointed chair of the Food Engineering Industrial Advisory Board for the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering, which is based at Sheffield Hallam, at the start of this year​.

The advisory board is composed of industry representatives and academics and aims to steer the faculty’s business plan.

Online game

Separately, MKC is working with Nestlé to create an online game to grab science, technology, engineering and maths students. It has also collaborated with the food giant to provide work experience placements.

MKC has already sourced 20 young people aged 14–19 from disadvantaged schools for a two-week work placement at Nestlé offices and factories across the UK. It said it would continue to develop the scheme with schools with a high percentage of students eligible for free school meals.

This year it increased the number of schools visited to 30 and work experience placements on offer to 25.

Nestlé said it had built links with schools and teachers through the initiative and had recently increased the number of its factories offering work experience to four.

Also speaking at the MKC event, Justine Fosh, ceo of the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink, said it continued to lobby government to establish a food and drink growth strategy for England. It was the only UK nation not to have one, she said, and a thought-through skills agenda was crucial to such a plan.

She called for a more collaborative and united approach to the issue from trade bodies, retailers, manufacturers and training centres. This would help strengthen the food industry’s voice, avoid duplicating projects and simplify its image to outsiders, she claimed. “We want to bring the industry together to have a collaborative voice,” ​said Fosh.

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