Imaginative Teaching Resources & Inspirational Career Ideas from the Chilled Food Industry

Josh Stapleford

Josh came to chilled food with a mission. His ultimate aim, on completion of his Food Science degree at Reading University, was to spread good practice across the food industry in the developing world. His placement with Avana (part of 2 Sisters Food Group, 2SFG) gave him vital insights and knowledge to position him to meet his aims.

What are you career aspirations?
I have always wanted to work abroad. I am struck by the contrasts between the food industry in the UK and, for example Viet Nam. I am keen to learn more about lean manufacturing (which is a customer-focussed approach to business, creating more value for customers with fewer resources.) 

I did maths, chemistry, physics and biology at ‘A’ level followed by a gap year. I was thinking of zoology but then talking to a family friend who’d studied Food Science at Reading sparked my interest. I wanted to do a degree I could really use, which lead me to Reading and to Avana.

Why did you chose 2SFG and Avana for your placement?
I’d been travelling with a friend who worked at Avana (who produce cakes and desserts) so I researched the company, loved it and applied for a placement here.

What work are you involved in at Avana?
I came into a very well-structured placement. I have worked in a Quality Assurance role, in hygiene, technical and was due to go to New Product Development but will now be back in QA.

How are you applying your course experience to your placement? 
HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) makes sense now! The microbiology side has been useful, and especially important in chilled.

Is the experience making you more or less keen to pursue a career in chilled food? 
I’m enjoying the pace of chilled – the quick turn around and high risk factor means it’s vital to learn from, and engage with, what’s going on around you. I have enjoyed being in at the deep end, the company believes in my ability and work hard for their students.

What are the best bits?
This is a ‘real world’ experience. I’ve enjoyed seeing all the departments and how they work. I came with a totally open mind, now I really understand what the industry is about. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to network, be part of a team and have my opinions respected. I am also able to hear about colleagues’ career paths. Plus there’s lots of cake!

What are the less enjoyable elements (if any)?
There are a few quiet times (but not many) and as they say’everyone hopes for a busy day’ but it’s good to experience the quiet times. And there’s always archiving and filing to do – it all counts.

Any advice to others considering their placement options? 
Get as much information as possible, talk to your university placement advisor, use the interviews to find out about the company. See how they structure their placements. Show your personality and make yourself known, engage with the staff there and be memorable (for the right reasons!).

And finally – any advice to employers re how they work with their placement students?
Make the placement as structured as possible to give the student a rounded experience. Take time to get to know them – stretch them if you can and give them the opportunity to show how they work under pressure. It’s almost better to give much than too little.

That way everyone gets a true picture – as I am enjoying at 2SFG in my new permanent role!

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