A Decade of Chilled Education – Scheme to Inspire Future Food Scientists Marks Ten Year Milestone

The Chilled Food Association’s (CFA) innovative, award-winning project to nurture the next generation of chilled food scientists, Chilled Education (CEd) celebrates its tenth anniversary this month (12 September).

Over the decade the initiative has worked with industry and education specialists to raise awareness of careers in the chilled food industry amongst teachers and students. Its original mission – to address the skills gap in the sector – remains as important as ever as businesses strive to recruit and retain a high calibre workforce.

Since launching, thousands of teachers and students have benefitted from innovative resources (such as the unique, hugely popular, MicroTrumps game, industry insights and practical support from a CEd team drawn from CFA member companies. The diverse range of resources produced, from lesson plans, ‘real-life’ career paths and case studies to newsletters and videos, coupled with engagement with teachers and students at career and science fairs (and, more recently, virtually) continues to inspire. A dedicated website www.chillededucation.org hosts all the information and is continually revised and refreshed.

As a result many students have chosen to study food science-related subjects and have secured not only placements, but full-time posts in CFA member companies.

CEd is constantly developing. Realising that it needed to work with science teachers as well as food teachers to influence teaching (with the aim of putting more food into science and more science into food), in 2014 it began what was to be a successful partnership with the Association for Science Education.

During 2020, in response to COVID-19 restrictions, the activity evolved to support home schooling. Short bite-size ideas such as Sweet Sustainable Science (originally designed by best-selling science author and teacher Sam Holyman) were shared on the website. More than 40 home-based Store Cupboard Science activities and experiments were developed to help with home schooling and make food science fun and engaging, To support COVID-19 public health messages CEd shared handwashing resources – with free downloadable posters.

Industry Recognition

Patrick Coveney, CEO Greencore Group plc (and CFA member company) explains CEd’s significance to the chilled food sector:  “I send congratulations to the CFA for ten years of its Chilled Education initiative.

“At its inception it was addressing a massive skills gap in the industry. Over the decade we’ve seen graduates, inspired by Chilled Education, join Greencore. We’ve also been delighted to be part of the ‘delivery team’ – going to science and careers fairs to join industry colleagues in sharing our experiences, and our enthusiasm for our dynamic industry.

“Though much has changed, the recruitment and retention of food scientists (and other colleagues) is more critical than ever. Chilled Education, therefore, still has an important role to play. And if the success of the first ten years is anything to go by, there is much to be optimistic about – as Chilled Education continues to inspire, inform and nurture the next generation of food scientists.”

Karin Goodburn MBE, CFA Director adds: CEd continues its aims to: ‘inform, educate and inspire children in all areas of the dynamic and diverse chilled food sector. While we are proud of our successes and eagerly follow the progress of our young graduates our work is by no means over. Our industry’s need for high quality food scientists, and other experts, shows no sign of diminishing as vacant roles continue to mount up.

“However, we are heartened by the overwhelming positive experiences reported by the new recruits and will be using those testimonials to encourage others. They go a long way to correct the many misconceptions about the industry that have proved a barrier for many people.

“We send sincere thanks to all our partners and supporters and look forward to further working with our colleagues in the industry and in education as we embark on the next ten years of Chilled Education.”

In 2014 CEd was the Food and Drink Federation’s Education Initiative of the Year, who described it as ‘especially inspiring’. It has been shortlisted for the award again this year.  Also in 2014 CEd was a finalist in two categories of the Food Manufacture Excellence Awards.

Chilled Education in numbers:

~146k fridge thermometers distributed (underlining the importance of correct fridge temperatures for chilled food
>30k free lesson plans downloaded
75k Nanobugs temporary tattoos shared (fun representations of pathogens)
>1,750 teachers in hundreds of Cool Schools in regular contact
8,000 packs of MicroTrumps distributed
90 students supported at Food Science Summer Schools
40+ real life career paths, case studies and profiles
40+ Store Cupboard Science ideas