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Competencies for food science graduates

Following the publication of the Wakefield Review, the ability of higher education institutions to produce employable graduates for the agri-food sector has been brought into focus. The report highlighted that higher education institutions and businesses need to ensure that graduates entering work have the right set of skills for the future.

Responding to the challenge Emma Weston, Associate Professor, Division of Food Sciences, University of Nottingham – in collaboration with IFST and representatives from SMEs, retailers, manufacturers, research and development and higher education Institutions – developed a project tailored to typical technical careers pathways.

The core document comprises a list of 48 elements that provide a consistent and relevant set of behaviours, knowledge and skills that may be desirable in a food science graduate. A list of 14 role types and associated definitions were then reviewed and ratified by the industry stakeholder group. Initial summaries are now available on the IFST website. However, an online tool will be openly accessible in the new year so it can be used by students to help them identify and pursue careers suited to their strengths, by employers to help with recruitment and selection and by educators to help ensure courses reflect the needs of the food sector.

Emma Weston commented: ‘At University of Nottingham we are really passionate about developing the highest quality food sciences graduates to enter the UK food and drink industry. This means more than just delivering excellent scientific education; students also need to have developed a wider set of competencies to enable them to be successful in their first graduate job. The support from industry has been superb and provided material that is as true to life as possible. Of course, at Nottingham we are integrating the project results into our teaching this academic year. However, the ‘Competencies for Food Graduate Careers’ is aimed to be of practical value to all students in personal development and securing their first role in the industry. Further opportunities are also being explored for employers and educators.’

Andrew Gardner, Operations Director, IFST added: ‘IFST is keen to roll-out and promote the adoption of the ‘competencies’ as they have an immediate relevance and should impact positively on the sector in terms of how universities shape food science degree programmes to meet the needs of the sector.’

To access the white paper, please visit https://www.ifst. org/knowledge-centre-other-knowledge/competencies-food-graduate-careers

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