Imaginative Teaching Resources & Inspirational Career Ideas from the Chilled Food Industry
We spoke with Matty Desforges part-way through his three-year degree apprenticeship course with Melton Foods (a division of Samworth Brothers) entitled Professional Practice in Food Industry Technical. This is specially designed by Sheffield Hallam University, tailored to encompass work and study. We chatted to him during his second year when he was loving the winning combination of work and study.
What subjects did you study at school and to what level?
I have A* GSCE Food Science and Nutrition and also Biology, Chemistry and Physics and ‘A’ levels in Food Technology Geography and Economics (grade A).
What appealed to you about the apprenticeship route into the industry?
Throughout school I have always been drawn to practical learning. I enjoy being hands-on and this style of learning suits me. Apprenticeships are comprised 80% work based and 20% study – an ideal combination for me.
I’ve been working since the age of 14 in many different settings – from restaurant kitchens to a food stadium. I was keen to get into full time work.
There are other plus points, such as no tuition fees! But the biggest draw for me was the chance to get industry experience. On my degree 70% of the modules are workplace based so I’m studying as I’m working.
I’m also developing contacts for the future, Samworth have guaranteed me a role on completion of my apprenticeship. They offer different pathways which connect the apprentice to the top of the business and these three years are allowing me to experience each of those pathways.
How did you find out about it?
People are generally not familiar with companies such as Samworth but I was lucky – my father works at Sheffield Hallam University and told me about its degree apprenticeships courses. I found out about this particular course while it was being developed and the course leader had the connection to Samworth.
When did you join your company? What brought you to Melton Foods?
I applied to the university in 2018 and they recommended me to Samworth. The two-stage interview process was rigorous with a significant number of applicants for two roles, and I joined the company in September 2018.
I was delighted to be accepted as I knew of Samworth’s excellent reputation. They are focussed on the development of their employees and offer significant support in their apprenticeship schemes.
How do you find the split between working and study?
It can be challenging, particularly with the university assignments running alongside full working days (sometimes 11-12 hours when we are busy)
I had expected this however, and the company is very supportive and are flexible with my time when needed.
But my studies are really helped by the industry experience. I can see the theory in practice and my assignments are often industry based so the projects I’m working on are an integral part of my learning.
When do you first become interested in Food Science?
I have been interested in food since aged 9. I was fascinated by the processes of cooking and how food is made. I also had a fantastic food science teacher who really helped me achieve my A* grades. Prior to teaching she had worked in the food industry for 20 years and brought huge enthusiasm for the subject. She also knew of Samworth Brothers which further encouraged me to take on the apprenticeship opportunity.
What does your role involve? Is it fun, interesting?
I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. The three years are giving me a chance to experience various sides of the business from technical to raw materials to new product development. It was really ‘in at the deep end’ for example working on supplier audits visiting bakeries, dairies and abattoirs and playing a real role in the running of the business. Working with technical teams, risk assessments colleagues and many others I feel valued and that my work is important to the company.
This is definitely not work experience! It’s not what I expected – it’s much better! I enjoy seeing work I’ve been involved with benefitting other parts of the business.
Apprentices spend a year in each site which allows us to gain an in depth understanding of that site. This year I’ve been working at a site in the Food To Go division working on various products including porridge for which I’ve developed a HACCP plan (a food safety monitoring system), with a team. I’ll be moving to another Samworth site in September this year working in a process development role on cooked meats.
What are your long term career plans?
The variety is really keeping me on my toes but also giving me a chance to find out what I’d like to do in the longer term. I really love what I’m doing now and It’s probably too soon to say but Head of Technical would definitely be one aspiration.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about Food Science as a career? And perhaps taking up an apprenticeship?
Speak to the university, they will have the contacts and know the companies who offer apprenticeships. Have a look at the website apprenticeships.gov.uk – apprenticeships all listed on there. But a university will also know of apprenticeships that might not appear so talk to them too. And go to careers fairs where you’ll meet the companies.
Anything else to add?
Just go for it. I was astonished to get my role and wondered why so (relatively) few people had applied. I meet undergraduates who wonder why they didn’t follow this route, given everything it has to offer and to be getting paid at the same time.
To be able to do the course and not pay a penny for it is amazing, In fact I would be willing to pay much more than a penny to be on it!
To hear more about degree apprenticeships click through to our interview with Dr Caroline Millman of Sheffield Hallam University.