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

Samantha Cole

It was an inspirational Food Technology teacher that first got Sam thinking about a career in chilled food, as she explained to us in 2014.

Angus Massey had previously worked in the industry and used his own practical experience to help bring text books to life. He showed Sam the opportunities available to her within food industry and how she could make a career from her passion for food. This motivation encouraged Sam to turn to studying a much enjoyed BSC Hons Degree in Food and Nutrition at Sheffield Hallam University.

After completing her second year at University, she undertook a 12 month placement with 2 Sisters Food Group (2SFG) at their Cavaghan and Gray (Cavray) site in Carlisle to gain practical experience of the food industry.

Why did you choose 2SFG and Cavray for your placement?
I confess to knowing little about 2 Sisters Food Group prior to researching them due to being hidden behind branded names of its customers.

After researching Cavray, I felt it was a real opportunity to explore the Technical role of working directly in a food factory with the added bonus of being at a site which such a wide spread of different technologies.

What work are you involved in at Cavaghan and Gray? 
My role encompassed both Technical and Hygiene Practice across the factory, making improvements that will enhance everyday production. The role consists of the majority of elements you would expect in a ‘fully fledged’ technical role with the added benefits of working on specific projects looking towards future investment and innovation technologies.

The role is fascinating with four factories on one site, consisting of around 1,000 staff. This allows me to learn about the whole process of producing food, from raw material stages right through to creating the final products.

How are you applying your course experience to your placement? 
University lectures set you up with the background knowledge on areas such as HACCP and food safety, but you cannot learn everything from a text book. When applying knowledge to practice there are so many new variables that can affect outcomes of projects. I am learning to take the foundation knowledge I have gained to apply it to everyday scenarios allowing for these variables.

Is the experience making you more or less keen to pursue a career in chilled food?
I am very passionate about food and is currently an area where I feel most at home. My love for food stems from my childhood through family influence. As a strong believer that people work best doing the things they love, I see my future based around my passion. This experience has heightened my understanding of the industry and has highlighted routes of future progression. I wouldn’t be where I am without the people who have aided my achievements for which I am grateful to all.

What are the best bits? 
There are so many elements of enjoyment working with food but one that stands out is the variety. Every day is different, meeting and working with new people of different challenges. On a site with around 1,000 staff, I really enjoy working with individuals each with different personalities and knowledge. I really enjoy the run up to site audits as you can really feel the efforts of individuals being brought together as one.

Any advice to others considering their placement options?
Apply to as many companies as you can as you will learn more about the different roles available whilst gaining valuable interview practice. You are finding out about them as much as they are interviewing you so prepare questions to ask them too.

There are also some great useful websites for students thinking about placements including this one!

Be prepared for a lifestyle change! You might be away from family and friends which can be hard at times. You will also have to deal with situations that no amount of education can prepare you for, but sets you up with essential life skills.

And finally – any advice to employers re how they work with their placement students? 
Cavray have a well thought-through placement programme, with lots of development days to meet other students on workshops aiding future employment. Weekly updates help monitor my progress, and give me the chance to discuss issues with my manager. I spent three weeks shadowing other colleagues gaining valuable insights into roles from all areas of the business.

As a final message, try to support the student in all ways (I had someone show me the quickest way to walk back to my accommodation and recommended local restaurants). As a student myself, there was a lot to take in but given time to get used to everything, I really feel I am ready to take on a career in food.

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