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Degree apprenticeships support higher level skills

12 December 2016

The country’s first degree apprenticeships in Food Engineering, Technical Management and Operations Management were recently introduced as part of a Government-funded programme to develop new opportunities for apprentices to deliver higher level skills for the food manufacturing sector. 

The University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing (NCFM) is set to lead the project. Based in Holbeach in South Lincolnshire, the NCFM has secured a share of the £4.5 million Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund to deliver the new courses in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University and the National Skills Academy Food & Drink (NSAFD). Together, the organisations have formed the Degree Apprenticeship Food Industry Partnership.

Funding for the new degree apprenticeships was announced in November by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). This first phase of the degree apprenticeships initiative will see 18 UK providers working in partnership with leading employers to develop the new programmes, ready for students starting in September 2017.

Designed by employers, universities and professional bodies, degree apprenticeships will deliver high-tech and high-level skills, offering an alternative to the traditional degree course. Bringing together university study with paid work, degree apprentices will spend part of their time at university and part with their employer. 

Professor Val Braybrooks MBE, Dean of the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing, is the project leader for the Degree Apprenticeship Food Industry Partnership. She said: ‘‘The Government’s drive to grow degree apprenticeships has been well received by employers and universities. Degree apprenticeships offer an exciting new way to deliver the higher level skills needed by the industry, with employers and universities working together to develop high-quality workplace training complemented by part-time, flexible degree level study, which will both attract young talent and reward and enhance the skills of existing employees.

“The food and drink industry represents the single largest manufacturing sector in the UK, contributing more than £100 billion to the national economy. The sector is highly innovative and is already adopting many advanced technologies, which require ready access to higher level skills - these three new degree apprenticeships are specifically designed to address that need.”     
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and many food businesses – including Nestle, 2 Sisters Food Group, Princes and Moy Park – are directly supporting the development of these three degree apprenticeship programmes, which are being developed to tackle the higher level skills gap in food engineering, technical management and operations management. 

Meeting the skills needs
Commenting on the move, Angela Coleshill, competitiveness director at the FDF, said: “The food and drink industry will need 130,000 new recruits by 2024 to meet the skills needs of our sector and we believe this type of collaborative working between industry and educational institutions will provide us with the next generation of our industry's advanced engineers and leaders.”
The new Degree Apprenticeship Food Industry Partnership brings together two centres of excellence for the food industry, and draws on the established engineering departments at the University of Lincoln and at Sheffield Hallam University. Dr Martin Howarth, director of Sheffield Hallam University’s National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering, explained: ‘‘We are very pleased to be leading the development of the Food Engineering degree apprenticeship course on behalf of the partnership. The sector is facing a skills gap, particularly in engineering, and we believe that the degree apprenticeship in Food Engineering will help to address this.’’  
Justine Fosh, chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink (NSAFD), said: ‘‘The NSAFD is working with employers and the universities to develop these employer led ‘industry standards’, which are pivotal to the new degree apprenticeships, and we will promote these new opportunities in the sector to young people through our ‘Tasty Careers’ initiative. We are elated that the food and drink manufacturing industry will be at the forefront of these developments, which are set to transform higher level skills into the future.”

Employers and students wishing to find out more about the new degree apprenticeships should contact, or phone the Degree Apprenticeship Food Industry Partnership on 01406 493000.

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