Olivia Harrison is just about to go into her 4th year of the Food Industry Technical Professional Degree Apprenticeship and I caught up with her to find out how she started her journey. She is currently the Quality Manager at the Compass Group site in the North West. Olivia has recently been promoted and is responsible for ensuring the safety of food production at the site.
Olivia started at Harper Adams University as a full-time student and had completed her first year of her Food Technology and Food Development degree. As with many students over the past couple of years, Covid meant she was sent home and continued her study remotely. All full-time students are required to do 1 years’ placement as part of their degree, so Olivia started to ask around for opportunities for work experience. She approached the Compass Group and was offered work experience within the technical department. While she was there, the quality manager left the business and Olivia was asked to stay on, provided she continued with her studies. The apprenticeship route was the best option. She hadn’t considered the apprenticeship route prior to this and felt the traditional route of university, then graduate job was the normal, tried and tested route.
Olivia describes her current role as the “food police”! She is part of a team that ensures the safety of food production. They supply to hospitals and schools, so ensuring the safety of food for potentially vulnerable people. When she started at Compass, she was able to see the variety of roles she could undertake by completing the Food Industry Technical Professional apprenticeship.
“To be honest, it's always been New Product Development that I've wanted to get into. It still is. But it's good because the apprenticeship has pushed me out of my comfort zone. Food science and the technical side of things hasn't always spiked my interest that much. But now actually from doing it, I've learned so much. I actually do find it really interesting. So in a in a way, it's worked out really well because it's pushed me to do something that I never thought I would want to do.”
Olivia felt that if she had continued with the full-time university route, she would not have had the experience of other roles within the industry. Although she may still move into NPD, the apprenticeship has exposed her to different roles, so she has a greater understanding of the whole process, which gives her an insight into how things work.
Corinne Tracz, her line manager (Technical Manager) is very pleased with progress that Olivia is making:
"It’s been a pleasure having Olivia on the Team at the Cuisine Centre, and I’m constantly impressed at her attitude and want to learn and develop. Olivia approaches everything she does with a positive attitude and is not afraid to ask questions.
“It’s really good to hear that Olivia’s opinion on Food Science and Technical has changed. The Technical Department is probably one of the most challenging departments in the Food Industry, but in my opinion is one of the most rewarding. Having a strong knowledge in technical operations opens up a lot of doors in the food industry to other departments such as development, operations, and procurement so is an excellent qualification to have.”
I asked Olivia about how she manages work and study. She said her employer is really good and she will take time off during the week to study. There have been times when this is difficult due to work pressures but she said that keeping organised is the key. She said you need to be self-motivated, as you need to make sure you set aside time for study. It can be easy to let work take over, but you need to be self-disciplined and make sure you use the off the job training time.
I asked Olivia what her next steps would be. She would still like to get into NPD but she is also thinking about the technical manager or general manager roles. Doing the apprenticeship has definitely opened her eyes to the opportunities available, which she feels she may not have been aware of if she continued with full time study.
“For me, I'd say I feel more supported now on this course than when I was actually at university. You know, everyone's there if you need any help, I couldn't knock it at all. I think it's been really good so far. It's been an amazing experience, I've really enjoyed it”
If you would like to experience the same, get in touch about our Food Industry Technical Professional degree apprenticeship, starting in late September 2022.