Student experiences

David Lawe on placement

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29 January 2014

There are so many careers for Food students to choose from, and the placement year is a great way to experience the world of work, to explore possibilities, build a network of contacts and practical skills. Final year Food and Consumer Studies student David Lawe was also able to experience a new culture during his placement overseas. 

David, from Lincolnshire, chose to spend his third year working for the Kenyan coffee trader, Taylor Winch. The 22-year-old is one of many Harper Adams students who have enjoyed successful placements with the Nairobi-based firm.  His role included buying and cupping the coffee, quality analysis and managing the warehouse.  

He says: “One of the best things about placement was living in a different country – where the temperature was never below 15c!  It was something completely different, and has given me an awareness of the world wide supply chain.

“The experience has potentially set me apart from the competition, and I’ve made lifelong friends and contacts within the coffee industry.”

David’s placement has also influenced his final year dissertation, which he is basing upon coffee certification schemes. 

Nor was this the student’s only overseas experience whilst at university – he took part in a student exchange in Beijing, where a large number of our international students hail from. The three week study programme included lessons in language and culture lessons, cooking and calligraphy, as well as exploring attractions such as The Great Wall and Forbidden Palace with the Chinese friends the Harper Adams students made during their stay. 

David initially chose Harper Adams because of its “excellent reputation and industry contacts” and he soon discovered that the placement year and the opportunities afforded by the on-campus Regional Food Academy were added bonuses. 

“The campus and facilities are great,” he says, “always improving and developing, while the staff will go the extra mile to help you. Harper Adams is a great place to learn and make friends.”

David is now looking forward to forging a food-based career with a CV enhanced by his work as a Student Ambassador, and extracurricular qualifications in Spanish, HAACP, food safety and management (Chartered Management Institute). 

David is a Certified Arabica Q grader, meaning that he is able to:

  • Objectively assess coffee quality
  • Identify, quantify and articulate coffee characteristics
  • Detect coffee defects
  • Communicate coffee characteristics using common industry terminology

In order to be certified applicants must pass The Coffee Quality Institute’s notoriously tough ‘Q Grader’ quality assurance programme, which includes a three-day exam with 22 sections all pertaining to coffee. What’s more, the qualification only lasts for three years before the Q Grader must pass a calibration to retain their title. 

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