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Food Industry Takes Control Of Its Engineering Future

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The UK’s first accredited engineering degree dedicated entirely to food and drink manufacturing has been launched by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, David Heath MP and Nestlé UK & Ireland CEO Fiona Kendrick at Sheffield University on Thursday (7th Feb).

The Minister attended the special launch event alongside several representatives from food and drink companies across the UK. The City will be the home of the new degree – the MEng Food Engineering, which will be offered exclusively by Sheffield Hallam University. The Minister congratulated the UK’s largest manufacturing sector for taking collective action to address skills shortages as part of its joint vision with government to grow the sector 20% by 2020.  

Ms. Kendrick spoke of the challenges Nestlé faces when recruiting engineers due to the lack of food and drink specialist skills. She emphasised the impact this has on both the business and the industry at large, stressing that a lack of technical expertise will hinder the sector’s ability to innovate and to remain competitive. Nestlé is one of the many companies that have already signed up to support the degree, which is designed to create employment-ready engineers, and Kendrick strongly urged other manufacturers to do the same.

A key feature of the degree is guaranteed work placements at food and drink companies providing students with much sought after employment skills and experience. The creation of the MEng Food Engineering degree is part of Graduate Excellence – a project to create employment-ready engineering graduates for the food and drink manufacturing industry. 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 co-investment from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills through the Employer Investment Fund.

Fiona Kendrick, who is also Chair of FDF’s Competitiveness Steering Group said: “At Nestlé, one of the biggest challenges we face is recruiting the best talent for our business.  Our success depends on our ability to remain competitive and innovate however a lack of engineering and technical expertise will hold our industry back. 

“The Graduate Excellence degree is a ground-breaking initiative which will equip graduates with the technical skills and commercial acumen our industry needs. It is an opportunity for food manufacturers to take control of their future and help shape a pipeline of talent.  A number of companies, including Nestlé, have already committed their support in a range of ways but I urge companies of all sizes to get involved.” 

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, David Heath MP said: “The UK’s food and drink industry is a hugely important part of our economy, worth around £89 billion each year. I want to see this sector grow and become more competitive on the world stage, creating more job opportunities for our young people. That’s why it’s vitally important that the industry is able to attract new talent with the right skills so we can continue to lead the way in developing innovative food sciences and technology. The new Graduate Excellence Programme in food and drink manufacturing will help make this happen by providing students with access to state of the art facilities, on the job training and the latest developments in engineering.  I will continue to do all I can to ensure Government works alongside the food industry to encourage more superb training initiatives like this in the future.”

Other companies onboard so far are: ABF, apetito, Arla Foods, Burton’s Biscuit Company, Cargill, Dalehead Foods, Finsbury Foods, General Mills, Mars, McCain Foods, Mondelez, Pork Farms, Premier Foods, United Biscuits, Warburtons and the William Jackson Food Group.