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    Featured student of the month: First Rabobank scholar Jacob Irwin makes a big impression at Yeo Valley

    Posted 2 November 2015

    Jacob produced results that will make significant savings for the company, year on year. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”

    Watch the video on our YouTube channel.

    Rabobank scholar Jacob Irwin has made significant savings for Yeo Valley

    Placement is more than just work experience.

    A scholarship is more than just money.

    Meet Jacob Irwin, the first Rabobank scholar at Harper Adams University.

    Jacob is still an undergraduate, but within six months of starting his year in industry in summer 2014, he had completed vital work that is set to save his employer a significant sum every year.

    Jacob, 20, secured his placement job with Yeo Valley thanks to the Rabobank Agri-food Scholarship scheme. His job role – continuous improvement assistant – was created for the scholarship programme, which sees the international banking company team up with an agri-food business to support a single promising student for the duration of their degree programme. Selected as a scholar before he even arrived at university, Jacob doesn't have to worry about paying tuition fees, nor did he have to spend his second year searching for a placement job.

    Yeo Valley quickly reaped the benefits of joining the scheme. “In the beginning, we said we wanted to at least recoup the value of Jacob’s salary for the year from the work he would be doing,” said Continuous Improvement Manager Christopher Coles, “But within the first six months Jacob produced results that will make significant savings for the company, year on year. We couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”


    “While we have had students working with us on Knowledge Transfer Partnerships before, Jacob’s role is a new one, created for the Rabobank scholarship scheme, to provide a good fit with his agri-business studies. We see knowledge transfer as a three-point triangle – the university, the student and the business all support each other and all benefit.”

    Explaining his achievements, Jacob, from Dungannon, County Tyrone, said: “I worked on investigative projects with the aim of making savings and efficiencies on the production side of the business.

    “My investigation into specific gravity – establishing the exact weight of a litre of the milk and other products going through the dairy, to improve calibration of the machinery and make the processes more efficient – has achieved significant savings. It’s a big number that I am very proud of – but I’m afraid I can’t tell you what it is!

    “It’s great that I have been able to make a real difference here, because the placement has given me so much. I have matured a great deal. I had already noticed a big leap from leaving home to go to university at Harper Adams, but there was a big jump again coming in to the workplace. I’m growing as a person all the time.

    “Being a Rabobank scholar has made a huge difference. I think it’s a great scheme they have set up and it is a real honour to have been the first person selected in this movement to encourage more young people into agri-business.”

    The scholarship provides the selected student with a guaranteed industry placement plus £9,000 to cover tuition fees in each of three years of study at Harper Adams University.


    “The financial security has allowed me to focus on my studies and my work at Yeo Valley and it is opening my eyes to wider opportunities. I had always planned on using my degree in agri-business studies to return and develop the family farm, but I am really enjoying the processing side and am proud to be working for such a successful company as Yeo Valley – which was why I applied for the scholarship in the first place,” Jacob added.  

    “It is a great place to work. You can sit down and talk to anyone, from the top to the bottom of the organisation. Everyone is so friendly and on first name terms. It will be hugely beneficial to have the Yeo Valley name on my CV, so I am pleased to have done a good job here.

    Jacob, who was based at Yeo Valley’s Lag Farm site, in Blagdon, Somerset, has now returned to Harper Adams University for his final year of study, including an honours research project which, he says, might involve a Yeo Valley topic, using some of the data he collected during his placement year.

    On October 14 Jacob and fellow Rabobank scholars Liz Andow and Will Taylor, met university Chancellor, HRH The Princess Royal, during a special reception at Rabobank London, to thank university supporters. 

    The Rabobank scholarship initiative was developed in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) with the aim of increasing the number of talented young people who choose to build a career in the food and agribusiness sectors.

    Rabobank Group is an international financial services provider operating on the basis of cooperative principles. It offers banking, asset management, leasing, insurance and real estate services. Its focus in the Netherlands, its home market, is on the provision of broad financial services. Outside the Netherlands, the focus is primarily on food & agribusiness.


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