The course has been instigated by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) to plug a skills gap that has become apparent among potential recruits. The FDF estimated that around 137,000 new employees need to be recruited to the industry between 2007-2017.
An FDF spokesman told MTJ that the course had been developed off the back of ‘Taste Success’, a programme which aimed to change perceptions and encourage greater recruitment into the food and drink sector. However, members reported that there was a lack of engineers with relevant food experience, and that many were recruiting general engineers and having to train them with the relevant food-specific skills.
The four-year degree course, which will include a year’s placement within the industry, aims to start with around 40 students in 2014.
The details of the course’s content will be determined over the coming months by FDF, the National Skills Academy and Sheffield Hallam, and supported through funding from UKCES, but is thought to include food production, chemical and mechanical engineering. It is hoped that members of the FDF will provide work placements to the students.
Angela Coleshill, FDF director of human resources, said: “We are delighted to be working with Sheffield Hallam to design a degree course that perfectly matches food and drink manufacturers’ needs. We listened closely to our member companies’ expressions of the skills that they require to continue developing the highly regarded products that have put our UK industry at the forefront of innovation.”
Justine Fosh, executive director of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink said: “This is an important milestone in redressing gaps in provision for our industry. The role of the National Skills Academy is to work with food businesses to drive up the relevance, quality and accessibility of training and, with greater levels of automation in the industry, we need higher levels of skills.
“This activity demonstrates the importance of the industry coming together to support new developments to ensure that they are appropriate to industry needs and sustainable for the future. Sheffield Hallam demonstrated both the skills but also the willingness to listen to industry and develop a new partnership for the future.”
Dr Martin Howarth, head of engineering and mathematics at Sheffield Hallam University said that the course would build on the university’s strong track record of providing excellent engineering education in partnership with leading industrial employers.
The FDF’s membership include Devro, Kerry Food and Ingredients, Dalziel Ingredients, Verstegen, Bird’s Eye Iglo, Princes and MacSween, as well as brands such as Nestlé, Cargill, Mars and Danone.