Food Technology Hub for Skills Excellence: A new high-tech education facility to train the next generation of food science and hospitality professionals
Organisation: University College Birmingham Food Technology Hub for Skills Excellence
Location: Food Technology Hub, University College Birmingham, Summer Row, Birmingham, B3 1JB
Project: Delivery of a state-of-the-art education facility at the University College of Birmingham
Value of Local Growth Funding: £341,666 contribution from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership
Total Value of Project: £1,030,817
Ben King, Food Development and Innovation student, said:
As someone who wants to build a career in catering, having access to the Food Technology Hub is fantastic. As well as getting to see first-hand the processes our food undergoes before it reaches our plate, we have the opportunity to work with prospective employers and develop the practical skills needed to succeed in the workplace.”
The Food Technology Hub at the University College of Birmingham (UCB) is a new, high-tech education facility, featuring the very latest in food testing and diagnostic technology alongside state-of-the-art kitchen facilities.
Located at the university’s main Summer Row campus in the heart of Birmingham’s city centre, the facility trains an average of 220 students every year, providing vocational education courses – including new entry-level traineeships and apprenticeships – predominantly targeted at 16 to 19-year-olds. It also provides a range of continuous professional development opportunities to those already working within the food and hospitality industry.
The centre for skills excellence represents a significant financial investment from the university in developing its campus facilities for students, supported by a grant allocation of £341,666 delivered through Local Growth Funding (LGF) from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP).
The food and hospitality industry was the fourth largest employer in the UK last year, accounting for 3.2 million jobs through direct employment (and supporting a further 2.8 million) as well as generating more than £73 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy. It also represents a key growth sector in the West Midlands, with an increasing demand for multi-skilled young professionals, particularly in the fields of food science, menu development and nutrition.
However, this growing market like many others is at risk of a chronic skills shortage and requires significant investment in vocational training at the higher education level to bridge this gap. The Food Technology Hub is a shining example of a specialist education facility which will help equip students with the workplace skills essential to meeting this demand.
The hub contains four thematic learning spaces, including Create It, Innovate It, Analyse It and Evaluate It. Here, students are able to get their hands on the very latest in food science technology, including a sensory laboratory for food tasting, a pilot plant demonstrating commercial food manufacturing technologies and a media suite for food photography and styling.
The project transformed a 422m2 space at the university’s Summer Row site into a cutting-edge food science and innovation centre.
Major structural renovations were undertaken to the fourth floor of the building, along with tailored fitting of new kitchens and laboratories by a team of committed contractors.
Unveiled in January 2016 the refurbishment was financed by the university in addition to an LGF contribution of more than £300,000 from the GBSLEP.
Why is it important?
The development of The Food Technology Hub has created three new positions at the university, as well as securing a further 45 jobs.
The new facility is playing a key role in training the next generation of food industry professionals, providing students with the opportunity to work with businesses in addition to valued qualifications which can facilitate progression to higher level skills and awards. It also forms part of the solution in upskilling the current workforce by providing much-needed access to product development and innovation facilities.
Home to pioneering food science technologies and equipment, the facility is helping drive innovation within the food and hospitality sector. The practice of food development processes and preservation techniques continues to have significant implications for commercial food production, while the Sensory Lab – assessing the influence of environmental factors, such as lighting and sound, on flavour perception and taste appreciation – is helping inform hospitality professionals on ways to improve the dining experience.
Most importantly, the Food Technology Hub is used by students across a diverse range of courses – including Applied Food and Nutrition (BSc), Food Development and Innovation (BSc), Culinary Science (BSc) and Bakery and Confectionery Technology (FdSc) – helping to secure the future of a key growth sector in the region.
Pauline Lovatt, Assistant Dean of the College of Food at the University College Birmingham, said:
The funding support received through the Local Growth Fund for this state-of-the-art training facility demonstrates a continued commitment from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP to investing in local skills development and boosting employment prospects for our young people.”