Food courses accelerate career success

March 4, 2022

To mark International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th March 2022 we caught up with Loughry Campus food graduate Siobhan Parks. Siobhan has certainly packed in a lot to her career development since her graduation from the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) in 2018.

Siobhan told us what attracted her to CAFRE: “When considering courses to study one factor that drew me to look closer at the programmes offered at CAFRE was their graduate employment rate. On average 95% of graduates are working or progress on to further education within six months of graduation. Sounds good, so I decided to look further at the courses on offer.

The course which suited my interests was the BSc (Hons) Degree in Food Technology delivered at Loughry Campus, validated by Ulster University. The course combines science, technology, innovation and packaging meaning the choice of careers is varied. Degree courses can be studied over three or four years, depending on whether you opt to spend one year on work placement.”

CAFRE is well known for its practical food facilities and unsurpassed industry links, factors that were really important to Siobhan: “The modules integrate real business scenarios, one of which stands out for me – new product development. During the second year of my course, we were tasked with developing an innovative food product. My team entered our product concept into Ecotrophelia, a UK food innovation competition. Our team was awarded second place and received an outstanding speaker award. Entering the competition provided us with the opportunity to network with personnel from Coca-Cola, Marks and Spencers, Mondeléz and Innovate UK to name a few.”

The college’s strong industry networks and industry-experienced staff encourage students to maximise occasions to connect with potential employers. Through the Annual Careers Fair at Loughry Campus, Siobhan secured a work placement opportunity with Greiner Packaging and completed a really interesting and challenging year with them.

Siobhan believes that this experience was a defining moment in setting the path for her future career: “Never did I think back then that my work placement would shape my career so much! On returning to the college for my final year, I selected a research project based on impregnation of antimicrobials into plastic packaging. I completed lots of research and trialled techniques in the Packaging Centre at Loughry Campus. My work placement and project established my strong interest in packaging design and materials.”

Siobhan celebrated her graduation not only from CAFRE but with a job offer to become part of the Packaging Team at Moy Park: “My career then catapulted as I joined the Mars Wrigley team as a Packaging Engineer travelling to multiple sites around Europe. I then obtained a role as Head of Packaging for Berry Gardens, who supply fruit to major UK retailers. I am now in the role of New Business Product Development Manager with Sharpak. The business is a European market leader in eco-designed food packaging solutions and my role focuses on new product launches.

I have maintained contact with the Packaging Team at CAFRE, they have assisted me with product trials and tests. I make time to attend the knowledge sharing seminars organised by the college to help keep up to speed with industry developments. I feel the knowledge and skills I developed through studying at CAFRE ultimately lead to my accelerated career in the packaging industry.”

“I would highly recommend CAFRE to you. The courses offered at Loughry Campus, Cookstown offer a great pathway into a vibrant employment which offers a diverse range of career roles. Discover where a course at CAFRE could take your career, I certainly have packed a lot of learning and experiences in mine over the past four years!”

If you are interested in following a career in the food industry, CAFRE is hosting a Virtual Open Night for Food courses on Thursday 10th March on Discover CAFRE Facebook, at 8pm. You can also book a tour to see around the campus on Friday 11th or Saturday 12th March 2022.

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