The food packaging industry is renowned for its commitment to innovation. Yet, this flourishing, competitive sector may soon suffer from a skills gap, resulting in an educational void that could stunt its future growth.
Many individuals working in the industry do not have a formal education in packaging or packaging science, partly due to a perception that these disciplines are ‘niche’. This creates a barrier to learning and personal development.
Only a handful of further or higher education institutions provide comprehensive packaging courses that cover aspects such as packaging design, robotics, manufacturing technology and food science. And while these courses are highly reputable, they are collegiate and, therefore, do not easily accommodate working professionals.
The situation is exacerbated by a lack of industry-led training. Many large firms run education and training programmes, but these are often exclusive to those businesses and are used to enforce standards in their supply chains, rather than support the whole industry.
Also, although there is a diverse array of food packaging trade associations and bodies, many are material- or market-specific, and do not offer formal education programmes.
With Brexit looming, the need to enhance the level of knowledge and expertise in the UK’s food packaging industry is more pressing than ever. So, the Institute for Agri-Food Research and Innovation [IAFRI], a joint venture between Newcastle University and Fera Science, is launching a part-time Food Packaging PG Cert course and a Continuing Professional Development course entitled ‘Current Issues in Food Safety, Security and Packaging’, developed around the themes of sustainability and food security. Both will start at Newcastle University this month.