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25 January 2013
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink are calling on manufacturers across the country to pledge their support for Graduate Excellence - the UK's first accredited engineering degree dedicated entirely to the needs of food and drink manufacturing.
Companies are invited to attend a special launch event for the degree at Mercure Sheffield St Paul's Hotel on Thursday 7 February. The event is free to attend and will give businesses an insight into this revolutionary new degree and how they can get involved.
Nestlé UK and Ireland CEO and Chairman, Fiona Kendrick, will kick off the launch giving an industry perspective on the value of engineering to the sector. Other speakers on the day will be representatives from the Graduate Excellence partnership: Melanie Leech (Director General, FDF), Justine Fosh (CEO, The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink) and Martin Howarth (Head of Engineering, Sheffield Hallam University).
Some of the many options available for companies to pledge their support include offering student placements, and by providing guest lectures as part of the course. To date, placements and other offers of support have already been pledged by: ABF, apetito, Arla Foods, Burton's Biscuit Company, Cargill, Dalehead Foods, General Mills, Mars, McCains Foods, Mondelez, Nestlé, Pork Farms, Premier Foods, United Biscuits, Warburtons and the William Jackson Food Group.
Graduate Excellence is currently being developed by a partnership of FDF, The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink and Sheffield Hallam University where the programme will be based. The degree has also received co-investment from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills through the Employer Investment Fund. Graduate Excellence aims to build the skills the UK's food and drink manufacturing sector needs for the future, enabling it to meet its ambition to grow 20% by 2020.
FDF Director General, Melanie Leech, said: "Graduate Excellence will mark a major step forward for our industry by creating a pool of specialist engineers equipped to help us meet future challenges. I urge food and drink manufacturers across the country to pledge their support in any way they can, helping us attract the best talent and enabling us to achieve our joint vision with government to grow our sector 20% by 2020."
Skills Academy CEO Justine Fosh added: "The shortage of engineers has caused intense competition between industries and is particularly important to food and drink businesses where engineering skills relevant to the sector are vital to drive growth and innovation in increasingly hi-tech automated production environments. The new degree puts the industry in a strong position to draw from graduates specifically trained in its workings.
"Our aim is nothing less than to ensure food industry engineering gains the same standing among would-be graduates as aerospace or automotive engineering and we urge companies to commit levels of active support comparable to that provided by businesses in those industries."
Dr Martin Howarth, Head of Engineering and Mathematics at Sheffield Hallam University said: "Sheffield Hallam is delighted to be part of the Graduate Excellence partnership. This project builds on our strong track record of providing excellent engineering education in partnership with leading industrial employers."