20th March 2012, 11:48am
Appetite for Engineering Skills at National Centre for Food Manufacturing
Food packaging line With the recent promise of a £1.7million injection for skills training from the government and projected growth of around 20 per cent by 2020, the food and drink sector is of increasing importance to the UK economy.

A major challenge to the industry's ambition for growth, however, is a lack of skilled entrants to the workforce. In particular, a shortage of skilled food engineers is a concern to many businesses as food manufacturing processes and equipment become more complex, using the latest mechanical, robotic and computer technology.

The University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing, based strategically in the food production-intensive region of south Lincolnshire, is hosting a workshop event for schools on 27 March to highlight the opportunities for engineers in the food and drink industry.

The workshop style of the ‘Appetite for Skills’ event will enable students to see demonstrations of the high-tech equipment and machinery used in today’s food manufacturing operations. Food and drink companies, University staff and current apprentices will offer advice about routes into the industry, training, courses available and career opportunities.

The event is championed by the industry publication Food Processing magazine and will be attended by some of the UK's leading food and drink manufacturing companies including Britvic Soft Drinks,  Samworth Brothers (famous for Ginsters pasties), and leading suppliers of technology and automation to the food manufacturing industry.

Dean of the University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Food, Professor Val Braybrooks, said: “The National Centre for Food Manufacturing is a flagship facility for the industry as a result of our partnership with machinery manufacturers and their trade association PPMA (the Processing and Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Association).

“Food factories are not generally open places and many young people are not aware of the extent of the automation in the industry, and our partnership enables young people to experience this technology first-hand. As a University we are committed to working with our partners to build engineering capability for our key sectors.  We have  recently opened our new School of Engineering in collaboration with Siemens and are delighted to be hosting the Appetite for Skills event to help encourage young engineers into the sector.”

Founder of Appetite for Skills, Peter Whitfield, said: “Many young people don’t think of the food industry when they think of engineering, however, much of the knowledge and technology you might employ in the automotive industry, for example, is also necessary in highly automated food production environments. Running this event in the fully operational National Centre for Food Manufacturing means that students can come and see the technology – whether it is computer, robotic or mechanically based - in action.”

Speaking to Food Processing magazine, Mike Mountain, chief engineer at Samworth Brothers, said: ''In light of the fact the food and drink industry is facing an impending skills shortage, I believe the Appetite for Skills workshop is an extremely timely and good initiative. More companies are realising they need to embrace automation and sustainability to remain profitable and competitive nationally and internationally, and for them to do this they need to attract the best apprentices and graduates.”

The Food and Drink Skills Council, Improve, recently reported that the UK food and drink manufacturing sector is set to receive a Government injection of almost £1.7million into a range of strategic skills projects designed to support competitiveness, growth and jobs.

The University of Lincoln works closely with employers and offers a range of courses and study options for people wanting to work in the food sector, or those looking to improve their skills and career opportunities.

Nicki Hunt, Careers Campaign Manager for the Food & Drink Federation, told Food Processing: "Food manufacturing has tremendous potential for growing 20 per cent by 2020 and is being recognised as a key driver of the UK economy. To make the most of our growth potential we need to focus on recruiting the most talented staff and developing the skills of our current workforce. Students may miss the many fantastic opportunities and wide range of entry routes that the industry can offer as well as the excellent pay and prospects.”

If you are interested in attending the Appetite for Engineering event call 01406 493000.

For more information about courses available visit http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/holbeach/
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