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    Engineering in chocolate! Food and Drink Advanced Engineering in confectionery

    6 February 2023

    Magna Specialist Confectioners are a leading manufacturer for well-known global chocolate confectionary brands producing in excess of 20,000 tonnes of chocolate products annually. Based in Telford, Magna have been developing their factory and investing in staff and technology to improve productivity and processes within the business.

    As part of this, the company are supporting 6 of their engineers through training and development in the form of the Food and Drink Advanced Engineer degree apprenticeship. This is a large commitment for both the employer and the apprentices; the apprenticeship takes 5 years to complete and will require all apprentices to have time off work for study and to attend block weeks of teaching at Harper Adams University.

    Apprentices work towards their BEng(Hons) in Food Engineering and will achieve the same degree as full-time students. The degree is accredited by the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE)

    The apprentices have started from different work backgrounds and different levels of experience, with their training plan adjusted depending on past knowledge and experience.

    For Tom, this is his second apprenticeship; after going to college for a year, then achieving an apprenticeship as a sheet metal fabricator, he applied to Magna for an engineer role. After 3 years at Manga, he is now starting the degree apprenticeship. Tom has already completed his HNC, which has been taken into consideration as part of his programme.

    Bradley did A’levels in maths and physics, with the intention of studying to be an architect but after not gaining the required grades, worked in retail for a few years. Bradley knew he wanted a change in career, so applied to Magna and was successful in gaining employment as an apprentice engineer.

    Steven had been unemployed for 6 months before starting at Magna and prior to that, worked for a shopfitting company. Steven had gone straight into work after finishing his GCSE’s and had not considered doing any academic study before starting his role at Magna.

    Jason knew he wanted to be an engineer and joined Magna after finishing his A-Levels. He initially planned to go into the automotive industry, but on seeing the vacancy he thought he would apply and was successful. 2 years on, he has started the degree apprenticeship.

    All have said they didn’t anticipate the level of work within the degree apprenticeship and felt they quickly learned they needed to plan study time. Stuart Harper, their manager has a good understanding of apprenticeships and is fully supportive of the off the job training requirement. The apprentices have an office where they can complete work and have the autonomy to plan their work around study time. They all said it can be difficult to plan study time, as their job sometimes requires them to react to problems as they happen to avoid stopping production however, there are times when they are able to catch up on their study. Being flexible with off the job training is necessary in order to fit with their job role.

    Tom and Bradley said they have learned they need to start their assignments sooner and not leave it to the last minute! Although some subjects may be familiar, they needed to get used to researching the topic further, academic writing and referencing.

    Both agreed that the block week of teaching allows you to fully get into the mindset of study and gain more knowledge of the topics. The teaching can be quite intense, but you are fully immersed in university life for your time on campus and are able to access the library and arrange additional support from tutors if needed. The support and resources are available at any time, as meetings can be arranged online and a lot of reading material is available electronically however, being on campus allows you to immerse yourself in study.

    All said they would highly recommend the apprenticeship route; you can learn from experienced engineers at work, alongside learning at university which provides invaluable experience and insight.

    They felt that the apprenticeship was a good fit for engineering, as they are able to gain hands-on knowledge and experience. Attending the block weeks of training allows apprentices to see and hear from other apprentices in different businesses. They both said it was interesting to learn about different companies and see different outlooks of the industry.

    Careful planning to support the apprentice is required but a successful relationship between the employer, apprentice and training provider can enable businesses to bring in new talent, upskill existing staff and raise aspirations.

    Harper Adams University offers opportunities for apprenticeships in the food industry. If you would like to hear more about how they can help develop your staff and recruit new talent, get in touch:


    Engineering in chocolate! Food and Drink Advanced Engineering in confectionery



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