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Inspiring the engineers of tomorrow

13 May 2014

The Appetite for Skills programme was developed to educate and inspire, and to encourage more bright young people to give consideration to a career as an engineer within the food and drink industry. The most recent event took place at Sheffield Hallam University.

The event, which is sponsored by Festo GB,  saw around 80 young people – students from Sheffield Hallam University and University Technical College, and schools from the Sheffield area – participating in practical demonstrations, and finding out how exciting, interesting and worthwhile a career in the food industry can be.

An inspiring presentation was given by Nathan Driver, a project engineer at United Biscuits. He offered a fascinating insight into the daily activities of an engineer in food processing. 

After his presentation Driver explained to Food Processing why he feels it is so important to spread the word about engineering opportunities in food processing. He said: “In my experience a lot of engineers coming through university are unaware of the opportunities available within food processing. There is always more of a focus on sectors such as oil and pharmaceuticals. It was only in my third year of study that I even became aware that there were opportunities for engineers in food processing!

“Engineers coming out of university really are not aware of the scale of food production and the vital role played by engineers. I feel there is a general lack of awareness of what takes place in the food sector. Very few people outside the industry have any idea about the technical input needed to produce everyday food products.”

The opinions of the attendees at the Sheffield Hallam event back up Drivers comments. At the start of the day just one person raised their hand when asked whether they had considered a career in the food industry. Asking the same question at the end of the event resulted in around 70% of the audience saying that they would now consider it as a career path.

“The general consensus within universities is that food is not a very technical industry. The Appetite for Skills event really showed the students how wrong this assumption is. Everyone attending the event was fascinated to find out how the products they recognise on the supermarket shelves are actually produced…and the scale on which they are produced,” said Driver.

In conclusion Driver said: “If we can increase awareness of the engineering opportunities I think there would be a much better spread of engineering skill sets coming into the food sector. This is important because the sector is becoming more technical – moving away from manual labour and moving towards engineering driven processes. Ultimately, this will require more engineers to fuel this development process.”

There is still time to get involved in helping to deliver this vital skills message to tomorrow’s engineers,. The Appetite for Skills programme 2014 includes Nottingham University on July 3, Wigan UTC  on July 16, and Gen 2 Carlisle on October 24. Contact

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