What’s it all about then?
Engineers form a critical part of a food & drink manufacturing and are in very high demand – get qualified and you’ve a great career ahead of you. With many sites working 24/7 and processes becoming ever more automated, the need for equipment and machinery to be well maintained and available for use at all times is vital to production.
A range of Engineering and Engineering Maintenance roles exist across Mechanical and Electrical disciplines. Most food manufacturing and processing companies will employ Multi-Skilled Engineers and more specialist Automation / Electrical Engineers.
What might I be doing?
The role of an Engineer in food processing can be hugely varied and no two days are the same. Tasks include carrying out both electrical and mechanical work such as planned maintenance activity, reacting to breakdowns, finding out and eliminating the root-cause of problems and working on continuous improvement projects.
What will be expected of me?
Engineers need to be proactive, flexible and excellent communicators. Most Engineering roles will be shift based so if you want to be sitting behind a desk from working 9-5 Monday to Friday, engineering might not be for you. Instead you could be working 12 hour shifts but with more days off in between than your 9-5 mates. Some roles involve call out rotas when you take a turn to be ‘on-call’ and ready to come into work if there’s a major problem.
What can I expect?
Engineering is a demanding yet highly-rewarding career. For some time there has been a skills shortage in the food and drink industry and as processes become more automated the need for high calibre engineers is crucial. Working on state of the art equipment is exciting and ever changing and starting salaries are highly attractive!
What about the pay?
While salaries vary depending on your exact role and the business you’re working for, a qualified Engineering Technician can typically earn between £30,000 - £45,000 with experience. There’s then the chance to move into Production Management where salaries range from £45,000 - £80,000 depending on the size of the business, your exact role and team size.
What qualifications do I need to get in?
Good GCSEs in Maths and Science will be an advantage and an A Level in Maths, Physics, Chemistry or Biology may be helpful - but you can get into food engineering with other good GCSEs if you follow a vocational education route with vocational qualifications from a Further Education college or via day or block release and on-the-job study if you land an Engineering Apprenticeship.
If you go the A Level route, we suggest you then take a look at the Food Engineering Degree course offered by Sheffield Hallam University. This course was set up with the help of the food industry as the first engineering degree of its kind dedicated to food manufacturing and includes specialist learning applicable to the sector and access to the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering.
The degree also involves guaranteed work placements and regular industry interactions – major stepping stones to a high flying career.
What about further training?
Further training opportunities will always be there as new equipment comes in and regulations change. There are a huge range of areas you can specialise in such as Automation, Site Services, and Project Management etc.
Anything else I might need to know?
In the Food & Drink Industry if the machines don’t work, the products can’t be manufactured and customers don’t get their deliveries. The input of engineering can’t be understated and the responsibility can bring a great deal of job satisfaction – plus it’s often a lot of fun!
You would typically start your Engineering career as an Apprentice or equivalent within a typical structure including Engineering Technicians, Engineering Team Leaders and Engineering Manager. For those with less interest in managing people, career progression often moves in the direction of Project Management. This can involve responsibility for the installation of multi-million pound equipment, site extensions etc.