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‘Never did I think that my work placement would shape my career so much’

Siobhan Parks has certainly packed in a lot to her career development since she graduated from CAFRE (the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise) in 2018.

When considering courses to study, one factor that drew her to look closer at the programmes CAFRE offers was its graduate employment rate.

On average, 95% of graduates are working or progressing to further education within six months of graduation.

The course that suited her interests was the BSc (Hons) Degree in Food Technology delivered at Loughry Campus.

Parks said: “The course combines science, technology, innovation and packaging, meaning the choice of careers is varied.”

“The degree can be studied over three or four years. This depends on whether you opt to spend one year on work placement.”

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CAFRE college

CAFRE is well-known for its practical food facilities and unsurpassed industry links, factors that were “really” important to Siobhan.

“The modules integrate real business scenarios, one of which stands out for me – new product development.”

During the second year of her course, students were tasked with developing an innovative food product.

Her team entered their product concept into Ecotrophelia, a UK food innovation competition. They were awarded second place and received an outstanding speaker award.

“Entering the competition provided us with the opportunity to network with personnel from Coca-Cola, Marks and Spencers, Mondeléz and Innovate UK, to name a few.”

CAFRE’s strong industry networks and industry-experienced staff encourage students to maximise occasions to connect with potential employers.

Work placement 

Through the Annual Careers Fair at Loughry Campus, Siobhan secured a work placement opportunity with Greiner Packaging and completed a really interesting and challenging year with them.

Siobhan believes that this experience was a defining moment in setting the path for her future career.

“Never did I think back then that my work placement would shape my career so much.”

“On returning to the college for my final year, I selected a research project on the impregnation of antimicrobials into plastic packaging.”

“I completed lots of research and trialled techniques in the Packaging Centre at Loughry Campus. My work placement and project established my strong interest in packaging design and materials.”

Career path

Siobhan celebrated her graduation not only from CAFRE but with a job offer to become part of the packaging team at Moy Park.

Her career then “catapulted” as she joined the Mars Wrigley team as a packaging engineer travelling to multiple sites around Europe.

Furthermore, she then obtained a role as head of packaging for Berry Gardens, which supply fruit to major UK retailers.

She is now in the role of new business product development manager with Sharpak. The business is a European market leader in eco-designed food packaging solutions, and her role focuses on new product launches.

“I have maintained contact with the Packaging Team at CAFRE. They have assisted me with product trials and tests.”

“I make time to attend the knowledge sharing seminars the college organisers to help keep up to speed with industry developments.”

“Also, I feel the knowledge and skills I developed through studying at CAFRE ultimately lead to my accelerated career in the packaging industry.”

“I would highly recommend CAFRE to you. The courses at Loughry Campus, Cookstown offer a great pathway into vibrant employment which offers a diverse range of career roles.”

“Discover where a course at CAFRE could take your career; I certainly have packed a lot of learning and experiences in mine over the past four years.”

Virtual open night 

If you are interested in a food industry career, CAFRE is hosting a virtual open night for food courses. Tune in on Thursday, March 10th, on Discover CAFRE Facebook, at 8pm.

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