Rising talent: How one student’s work placement with leading food equipment manufacturer turned into a first job
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Baker Perkins is a leading Anglo-American manufacturer of food equipment and technology. Will Smith was a third-year undergraduate on the MEng Food Engineering degree when he was placed with Baker Perkins for his industrial placement year. Based in the Innovation Centre in Peterborough, Will was tasked with helping out the innovation team look at the next generation of bakery mixing technology.
Tony Prange is the Manager of the Innovation Centre at Baker Perkins and during Will’s placement, took on the important role of mentor. He manages a team of process engineers who conduct R&D projects to improve the design of their equipment. Will worked closely with the engineering team on a design project to retrofit bespoke parts for existing machinery. He was also involved in conducting customer trials and other process developments.
Tony and his team have been particularly committed to supporting students from Sheffield Hallam University’s food engineering courses as they fit well with Baker Perkins’ business specialism.
Tony had this to say about placements: “I’m a believer in giving students real work to do on their placement. In my experience, that’s how you get the best from a person. It also means you get an injection of new ideas in your business.”
The benefits to both employer and student have been plain to see. For Baker Perkins, they have been able to trial a potential employee in their business and assess their performance before offering a permanent position. This offers graduate employers major advantages in terms of recruitment and selection of candidates. Supporting a third-year undergraduate also benefited the firm, as it enabled them to focus on an R&D project and achieve the project goals in a short time period.
For the student Will, his understanding of specific food engineering issues increased significantly. The time spent in industry developed his knowledge of the science involved in producing bread. He also learned about the design process behind creating bespoke retrofitting parts for existing machinery, the challenges of processing a product with a live ingredient, and how important communication is between the manufacturing and design teams.
Will said of his experience: “Thanks to Baker Perkins’ push for new ideas and belief in talent, I gained valuable insights about graduate career progression. The most meaningful outcome of all was that I was offered a permanent job with the company, as a result of my successful placement.”
"Having students on placement can take a lot of effort, but the rewards are there. The additional workload that they can complete once you know their capabilities can have a significant impact. They also come with fresh ideas and a great deal of talent."
Tony Prange, Innovation Centre Manager, Baker Perkins