Working at Co-op Food as a degree apprentice
Read about Caitlin’s experience working as a Food Technologist at Co-op Food. She enrolled on our Higher and Degree Apprenticeship in 2021 after finding an opportunity that allowed her to kick-start her career in the food industry.
“I always knew I wanted to work in the food industry. I’m a practical learner so when I found out Sheffield Hallam offered a degree apprenticeship in the industry it was the perfect solution.
I’m currently working in the chilled, food to go and bakery team, looking after a range of products from ready meals to cake. We make up a wider technical team and together we’re responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of all Co-op own brand products.
I’ve learnt so much since I started my apprenticeship and have developed both personally and professionally. In just 7 months I went from having a basic understanding of what a technical team does to managing my own category. This involves having my own products to look after, investigating complaints, signing off new samples and managing factory trials.
A year into my apprenticeship I was category manager for the relaunch of 12 of our soups. I was responsible for managing the products through line trials, pre-production and store launch. This was a great personal achievement and demonstrates how much I was able to learn in a short amount of time. I was able to apply my learnt knowledge from University into real life scenarios to help make the launch a success. It was a very proud moment to see all the products on the store shelf!
Working for Co-op is great because there’s always lots of other, not necessarily food related, projects going on. I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation to create allergen awareness packs for schools and talk to GCSE students about higher and degree apprenticeship opportunities. I also had the pleasure to meet the Minister of Skills and Apprenticeships and various other MPs to discuss the value of apprenticeships and the benefits they offer to both apprentices and the food industry.
There’s a great sense of community and teamwork at the Co-op, I felt like I was part of a team as soon as I joined. The support I’ve received from my team and the University has helped me progress at such a quick pace and allowed me to access amazing opportunities.
By the end of my apprenticeship I hope to have a first-class degree and the skills of a great technologist.
My advice to someone considering a degree apprenticeship? It doesn’t matter if you go into the role knowing nothing! You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn and pick up the skills you need. That’s the difference between a degree apprenticeship and a traditional university degree, you apply your learning straight away and not once you’ve graduated. I’d recommend degree apprenticeships to anyone!”
Caitlin has been a great asset to the business helping as a junior technologist during busy periods. The apprenticeship scheme has been a great success and allowed us to train apprentices to have the right skills needed to future-proof the business.
Richard Taylor, Co-op Technical Manager