The food and grocery industry is central to all of our lives. It puts food on our tables, employs one in seven people in the UK and offers a variety of skilled and rewarding careers from farming through to producing some of our most loved food products.
The food and drink industry is coming together to discuss an issue central to its ongoing success. Ensuring talent within the sector in the future.
Engineering is one of the most vital specialisms required to grow the manufacturing industry. Yet there is no current university provision in the UK for engineering and its application to the food and drink industry.
Evidence from the Food and Drink Federation and the National Skills Academy for food and drink demonstrates that our industry faces skills gaps in two key areas: food engineering and food science.
That is why today, Nestlé has come together with members of the industry and Government to launch the UK's first accredited Masters Degree, dedicated entirely to food and drink manufacturing, at Sheffield Hallam University.
Together we are developing a solution to ensure that we can fill the skills gap and attract the talent we need to retain our place as the largest area of manufacturing in the UK.
Sheffield Hallam University was chosen because of its renowned history in engineering, its existing work with industry, and the Food Science Degree that already exists there.
The course has been specifically developed for the food industry, by the food industry and will ensure that engineers understand the foundations of food and drink manufacturing.
Students will learn about food composition and safety, food processes and packaging, design of equipment and machinery specific to the industry, as well as ensuring an understanding of the major challenges facing food manufacturing today - environmental sustainability, efficiency and product quality.
Food and drink engineering isn't widely understood, and this is an issue we need to address. At present fewer students are choosing to apply to university, resulting in less people having the qualifications required to develop a career in engineering.
In the future, as an industry, we are expecting to see a dip in the number of qualified engineers applying to work in the food and drink industry. With a struggling economy, and a manufacturing industry at risk of decline, we are working together to turn this around.
Food engineering is essential to continued industry growth. Not only to support the UK economy but to ensure mouths are fed and a more sustainable future ensured. The food and drink industry therefore requires a very different set of disciplines to traditional engineering.
Frequently graduates start learning about the industry once they enter the world of work. This course however will ensure graduates have the strong foundations needed; a strong knowledge of the food industry and the challenges it faces.
That is why members of the industry including Nestle, Premier Foods, Warburtons, United Biscuits, General Mills, Mars and McCain Foods - to name just a few - are taking collective action with the Food and Drink Federation and the National Skills Academy to create a degree with industry backing and input. We genuinely believe that together we can help create the future leaders of the food and drink industry here in the UK.
To support the delivery of the degree, we are developing Sheffield Hallam University as a Centre of Excellence for food and drink, helping to position the UK as a global leader in food engineering and enabling our industry to be at the cutting edge of new and emerging technologies. This is experience and expertise we can share with other academic institutions to create best practice in the food and drink industry more generally.
Together we hope to build a better future for the food and drink industry, for the environment and to create exciting jobs for a generation of inspired and engaged young people in the UK and abroad.