Sheffield Hallam University has been named as the successful university to partner the UK food and drink industry in the development of the country’s first dedicated food and drink engineering degree.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), in partnership with the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink made the announcement after a rigorous selection process to run the unique course which is being developed in response to the need for world-class engineers for the industry.
The food and drink industry needs to recruit 137,000 new employees between 2007 -2017 and has been working with employers to identify the skills gaps that they are experiencing amongst potential recruits.
Many companies have highlighted a need for highly qualified engineers with a knowledge and understanding of the specialist requirements of food and drink manufacturing.
The lack of a specialist course in the UK has led the industry to work towards developing its own and it hopes that Sheffield Hallam will be able to accept the first students in September 2014.
FDF director of human resources, Angela Coleshill 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 & 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.”
The development of the degree course is being supported through funding from UKCES. Jeremy Horton, senior investment manager at the UKCES said: “From a field containing such strong competition, I am delighted that Sheffield Hallam University has been selected.
“The UK Commission fully supports this initiative and we look forward to seeing how our investment in Food Production Engineering will benefit both the sector and individuals studying at this new centre of excellence.”
Dr Martin Howarth, head of engineering and mathematics at Sheffield Hallam University said: “Sheffield Hallam is delighted to have been selected as the university to develop this course and centre of excellence. The project builds on our strong track record of providing excellent engineering education in partnership with leading industrial employers.”
Over the coming months, FDF and the National Skills Academy will be working with the university on the development of the course and the food industry has already committed to enhancing the course with work placements for successful students.