A placement year in the food industry can open doors to an exciting and varied career. With so much variation in the sector, Millie Farmer, BSc (Hons) Food and Consumer Studies alumna, made the most of the opportunities that attending Harper Adams presented to her.
“If you enjoy an ever-changing fast paced environment, the food industry is for you!” Millie said, “There are so many different opportunities and avenues within this industry.”
Harper stood out to Millie as a unique course. She commented: “Harper is well known for its hands-on approach to learning, whether that be within agriculture, animal science, or food technology. I’ve had a passion for food for as long as I can remember and doing something you love is so important, which is why I wanted to pursue a career within the food industry.
“I chose Harper because its courses weren’t just the same as every other university. Being offered a non-science-based course enabled me to focus on studying areas of real interest and this assisted by a year in industry, gave me an even more real hands on experience.”
Millie also made use of the assistance Harper offers to students looking to access higher education. She said: “My other reason for choosing Harper - and one other might choose not to shout about - was after completing my first year of A-levels, I didn’t get the results I needed or wanted.
“I contacted Harper and talked them through my situation, and I was offered a place on their access course. This course enables students who haven’t got the required A-Levels to complete a one-year course to gain the credits needed to progress onto their chosen course.
“Not everything happens the way you want it to, but there is always a way to get to where you want to go, even if it’s not the way you first imagined. The access course was one of the best things to happen to me and set me up for a brilliant 4 years at Harper. Everything happens for a reason!”
With her place confirmed, Millie had a focus on finding her place in the industry. This started with her placement year. She commented: “I spent my placement year at Cranswick Convenience Foods in South Yorkshire, working within procurement.
“I worked with both the ingredients and packaging buyers at site, and I also worked on a group-based project. This enabled me to develop my knowledge at both a site and group level, whilst it also gave me hands on experience.
“You learn so many skills from working within industry and it’s not something that you can get from the classroom.”
Millie saw great success during her time at Cranswick which resulted in an offer she couldn’t refuse: “After finishing my year on placement, I was offered a place on the graduate scheme with a contribution from Cranswick to help finance my final year of university.
“My year in placement opened my eyes to the different opportunities within the food industry and helped confirm my interest in working within a large food manufacturer.
“The first year of the scheme provided a business overview, whilst also spending time in the abattoirs and completing a butchery course before settling down at our own sites.
“There is no typical day on the graduate scheme. You are thrown into the deep end in order to expose you to real life situations, whilst moving through different departments to help you gain an understanding of the range of functions required to produce a product.”
Talking about her experiences in her role so far, Millie said: “In my first year on the graduate scheme, I started at Cranswick Sutton Fields, a convenience site, where I supported the Christmas planning team before moving to Gourmet Pastry. This is where I began my rotations, spending time in technical, NPD, operations, commercial and many others. Being able to ‘dip your toe’ into so many different functions enables you to have such an overview of the whole business.
“I am now spending my second year focusing on two areas of the business to help give me a further, more in-depth understanding of their functions, enabling me to choose my career path.”
Looking back on her experiences, Millie’s advice to others looking to go into the sector is to: “Do it, just do it! There are so many different opportunities and avenues.
“I have many fond memories from my time at Harper. However, most of them revolve around the friendships made over the past 5 years: from playing rugby and being part of a team; to heading to the SU; the people made the experience. Whilst not everyday was one big party, having like-minded friends around you to support and rely on definitely made the experience.
“There is something to be said about the Harper spirit, that you can’t get anywhere else, and this is true. The opportunities that come from studying at Harper from the time you spend within industry to the graduate prospects, ensure a degree worth studying.”