Moira Stalker: Companies provide ingredients to make food jobs project a success

The festive season is a great time to enjoy the fabulous food and drink that Scotland has to offer. It’s also a very busy time for the hard-working people in the industry who are ­constantly innovating and developing new ideas to suit changing ­consumer demands. As a result, the food and drink industry needs more talented people, in particular higher-level STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills are in demand.

Picture Toby Williams 07920841392. Scottish Cabinet Secretary for food Richard Lochead visits Macsweens Haggis in the Bilston Gled Industrial Estate Loan Head. He is entertained by James Macsween.

Our skills initiative A Future in Food – funded by the Scottish Government, through Scotland Food & Drink – makes educators, students, careers influencers and parents aware of these opportunities.

At Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland we are celebrating our 20th anniversary. As part of the celebrations we have launched 20 For 20 – a project encouraging industry to offer 20 young people from across ­Scotland a work experience or internship opportunity.

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Providing positive experiences of the reality of working in food and drink is proven to proactively influence young people’s career decisions and is vital to build our industry’s future workforce.

Eleven companies have ­committed to providing work ­experience or internships to one or more senior pupils from local schools or students from colleges or universities. One company is even offering a full-time job for the right candidate. The young people taking up these opportunities are participating in a variety of different projects to help host ­companies in areas like improving business processes or carrying out quality control.

These experiences will help them to understand the many career opportunities ­available, the skills required by employers, and the routes and pathways that exist from school, through further and higher education and apprenticeships.

Thanks go to Aldomak, Border ­Biscuits, Brown Brothers, Coca-Cola European Partners, Deans of ­Huntly, Galloway Chillies, Macphie, ­Macsween of Edinburgh, Paterson Arran, Stoats, and Uin Foods for ­taking part. All of these companies see the benefits of providing these opportunities to young people in their local communities.

Macsween of Edinburgh has been making haggis for more than 60 years and is delivering a project with six students from Lasswade High School studying for Highers in chemistry, biology and physics. The students will work alongside Alistair Williams, Macsween’s operations director, who is responsible for overseeing the day to day running of the factory.

The pupils are being tasked with programming computer hardware and software to make a temperature data logging system. This system will be used to capture and record the cooking and cooling temperature data, an essential part of ensuring food safety. Each student will also have the opportunity to spend time at the manufacturing facility to ­fully understand the manufacturing ­process from start to finish.

Paterson Arran makes biscuits, oatcakes and jam and chutney and is now part of the Burton’s Biscuit Co family. It is placing a ­student from Bathgate Academy studying health and food technology to work alongside product development technologist Stephanie Todd.

Stephanie plays an important role in coming up with new products and changing recipes to meet consumer demand. The student will get a real idea of what is involved in working in the industry. This will include attending the daily taste panel, learning how to use the internal systems, gaining an understanding of the costing process, and finding out about packaging design and artwork.

This experience will ensure that the student understands the whole manufacturing process, the different roles and people involved in getting food to the consumer from mixing the recipe, baking, quality control, to distribution.

UIN Foods – a leading chilled ­pizza manufacturer – is placing a student from Sanderson High School, East Kilbride. The student will spend time in the operations and ­production departments, learning about the basics of making products in a way that minimises waste and maximises productivity. The technical team will give an insight into how ­companies ensure that their food is safe. The student will work closely with the new product development manager, Melissa Buchan, in the development kitchen – learning about ingredients and working on new products. An introduction to the commercial world will see them learn about ­product costings and profit and loss statements.

We commend the companies who are offering these fantastic opportunities and would encourage others to get involved.

Working with young people in the local community is a great way to show potential recruits of the future that food and drink is a great place to grow their careers.

Moira Stalker, skills manager, Food and Drink Federation Scotland.