Food Innovation at Abertay

A new course is to be launched at Abertay University, in direct response to the critical skills shortage currently faced by the food and drink industry.

Food and drink is Scotland’s largest manufacturing sector, worth £9.5 billion per year to the Scottish economy. New figures show that food and drink exports were up 3.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2013.

However, at present just 11 per cent of the workforce is under the age of 24.

As a result, it is predicted that 137,000 new recruits will be needed by 2017 to replace those who will be retiring over the next few years.

The MProf Food & Drink Innovation (Packaging and Sustainability) has been specifically designed to meet this demand, in collaboration with Scotland Food & DrinkSkills Development Scotland and Interface Food & Drink.

In line with this, the Scottish Funding Council has created 20 fully funded places for Scottish students, to ensure that the industry will be sufficiently supported.

Graduates from backgrounds as diverse as marketing, bioscience, chemistry, engineering, nutrition, and business are encouraged to apply, as the aim of the MProf is to open up the food industry to those who may not realise that their degree is relevant to a career in the food and drink sector.

Dr Nia White – Head of Abertay University’s School of Contemporary Sciences – explains:

“The MProf is a Masters of Professional Practice, which means that students work on real-life projects for companies based within the food and drink sector.

“It is the only food-related MProf available in the UK and, whereas other Masters courses are research-based, this one is industry-led.

“The emphasis of the teaching for this degree is on creating a real working environment, with students sampling the types of work available within the food and drink industry by working in small groups on real-life projects. This is why the course is open to graduates with such varied degrees – the team will need a marketing specialist as well as a food scientist, for example, in order to simulate the multidisciplinary aspects of industry, wholly understand it, and respond to the needs of the client they are working for.

“In contrast to the situation currently faced by other industries – where job cuts are becoming commonplace – the food and drink sector is booming. It is Scotland’s largest manufacturing sector but, through our links with industry, we know that there aren’t enough undergraduates studying food science and other food-related subjects to be able to meet industry demand in Scotland and the UK as a whole.

“With the headlines constantly telling us that graduates in Scotland are facing years of unemployment, it seems that today’s young people simply don’t know that their skills could be used in this sector.

“So we have reacted to this situation by creating this new course, the aim of which is to convert the skills and expertise students already have – whether that be in biomedical science, marketing, nutrition or engineering – so that they can pursue a successful career within the food and drink sector.”

Jon Wilkin, Senior Food Technologist and Lecturer at Abertay University, sheds light on some of the different jobs that this new course could lead to:

“There are a variety of career paths that can be carved out within the food and drink industry, ranging from technical roles to marketing and sales.

“Technical roles are vital if we are to ensure that something like the recent horse meat scandal doesn’t happen again, and include jobs such as Food Safety and Food Quality Officers, who make sure that the products available to consumers are safe to eat, and that the quality, look, and taste of the products is always the same.

“They also include new product development, which can involve anything from creating an entirely new product, to re-formulating products so that they last longer, taste better, or are better for you.

“Other roles include developing new types of packaging – or changing the current packaging used – so as to improve a product’s shelf-life; or developing quality aspects of a product, such as making them stay fresh for longer.

“For those with marketing experience, this course will make sure that they have skills and knowledge that are specifically relevant to the food and drink sector.

“For example, the marketing team of a business may recommend that the company changes the packaging of its product so that customers can see what the product looks like through the packaging before they buy it – something they feel will boost sales. However, although this may seem like a good business idea at first, anyone with the knowledge gained on this course, would know that such a decision may reduce the product’s shelf-life, which would have a dramatic effect on the costs incurred by the business.

“So this course will convert graduates from all sorts of different subjects into highly skilled professionals who will be able to go straight into work in the food and drink industry.”

The MProf Food & Drink (Packaging and Manufacturing) is open to anyone with an Honours degree at 2:2 or above in a subject such as bioscience, chemistry, science, product design, engineering, food, nutrition or consumer science, computing, marketing or business.

However, applications from candidates with recent relevant professional or employment experience - who can show that they would benefit from study at postgraduate level - will also be considered.

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