Nottingham University’s summer school in food sciences was established in 2009 to encourage school students to choose food science as a degree option and later a career. Over the last three years it has gathered increasing support from food businesses and organisations which now sponsor fifty 15-16 year old students.
Many of the sponsoring companies are IGD members. The summer school has received significant support from IGD’s Technical Leadership Forum (TLF), a group of technical directors from the major retailers and own label manufacturers. The supply of skilled science graduates is a major concern for the food industry. The TLF wants to help attract science graduates by giving school students a taste of what it is like to work in the food sector.
Students at the Nottingham Summer School in food science have just completed their GCSE courses and will begin A-level programmes in September. So there is an opportunity to reflect on their subject choices and the degree options these support.
Students also experience university life over the course of three days at the scenic Sutton Bonington campus of Nottingham University. This important aspect of the summer school helps students to find out whether university is the right career path for them.
Participants are kept busy from the moment they arrive with a full programme of activities developed by Ssummer school organiser Dr Judith Wayte. These include designing their own pizzas to a particular specification - they go on to bake and sample them all so can see for themselves the success of their designs. This helps students to gain an understanding of the challenges involved in making familiar food products.
In the laboratory, students also get plenty of hands-on experience with some food chemistry. They look at how different textures and structures are achieved in foods - properties such as crunchiness in biscuits and formation of gels. Students are assisted by a group of willing undergraduate ‘ambassadors’ who are on hand throughout the three days to look after their needs.
A highlight of the summer school is the Lord Haskins endowed lecture which takes place on the second evening. The lecture is given by a food industry VIP and this year Joanne Denney-Finch OBE, Chief Executive of IGD, addressed the audience. This was particularly appropriate since Joanne crossed paths with Lord Haskins early on in her career. While at Marks and Spencer, Joanne worked with Northen Foods, the company owned by Lord Haskins, to develop chilled ready meals – something we now take for granted, but a technical revolution at the time.
Joanne highlighted the range of opportunities on offer with a career in the food industry, and demonstrated how it is possible for one person to make a real difference especially if they are willing to take on a challenge. She illustrated how the industry encourages innovation, and even if the idea doesn’t work, what is learnt is never wasted. Students heard about the great opportunities for travel as a supermarket buyer, sourcing fresh produce for the year-round supply they see on shelves.
During a lively question and answer session, the students in the audience wanted to know more about some of the current issues in the industry, such as changes in shopper buying habits and attitudes to organic and fairtrade products. They also asked about personal highlights, and the best things about working in the food industry.
The Lord Haskins endowed lecture was fantastic and Joanne was very engaging , informative and powerful when she spoke – you went from that lecture wanting to do well and hopefully do as well as her; she’s someone to look up to.
Student participant, food science summer school
After the lecture, students enjoyed dinner with the guest speaker, sponsors and university staff, before heading to the common room for an alcohol-free “pub” quiz.
Before the conclusion of another successful Summer School in Food Sciences, students toured local food and drink factories to see some of the processes they had learnt about over the last few days in action.
For more information about the University of Nottingham Summer School in Food Science please see http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/biosciences/divisions/food/summerschool/index.aspx or contact Dr Judith Wayte at Judith.Wayte@nottingham.ac.uk