The inaugural IFSTAL workshop of the 2018/19 year was a full house, with the most students attending an IFSTAL workshop to date. During the morning session, the students were introduced to the Principles and Concepts of Food Systems. Then, armed with Sharpies and sheaves of paper, they set about getting to grips with Rich Pictures. This approach is used to tackle messy problems, such as the issues thrown up by the food system. The exercise ensures that everyone around the table can bring their own perspective and throws the possibilities for problem solving wide open. For more on this, see part one of the blog on Workshop 1 HERE.
Building employability in graduates and equipping students with the tools to collaborate are at the core of the IFSTAL approach. At the Introduction to the Workplace Session, the students heard from a range of guest speakers, all of whom work in the food sector. They included:
• Helen Crawley, Chief Executive, First Steps Nutrition
• Alan Hayes, Head of Technical Programmes, Institute of Grocery Distribution
• Hugo Chambers, Sustainable Sourcing Project Manager, Sainsbury’s
• Angela Wright, Chief Scientific Adviser, Compassion in World Farming
• Anna Cura, Programme Manager, Food Ethics Council
• Kathryn Packer, Sustainability professional and community activist
• Rebecca Wells, IFSTAL Education Coordinator, City, University of London
• Barbara Haesler, Lecturer in Agrihealth, Royal Veterinary College
• Lauren Blake, Education Coordinator, Royal Veterinary College
As each speaker explained their background experience and current role in the industry, it was fascinating to note the wealth of different experiences in the room. It was clear that opportunities to move forwards often come from the places you least expect – personal experiences such as volunteering can be as important as professional roles.
Unexpected career paths
For some of the presenters, the food sector had not been an obvious or intended career destination when starting out. Anna Cura of the Food Ethics Council remarked: “I always thought of food as a personal interest. I never considered I could work in the food sector with my background in zoology.” Rebecca Wells, one of the IFSTAL Education Co-ordinators, shared how she began her career in investigative journalism before covering food as a subject. This led to further opportunities around food, with Rebecca returning to academia to work at City, University of London where she is a teaching fellow.
After short presentations, it was time for the round tables. These extended sessions gave the students a chance to ask the speakers direct questions about their backgrounds, experiences and pathways into the food sector and hear their thoughts non the current food landscape. Hot topics ranged from veganism, food fads and fair trade to public health and consumer behaviour. Students also gained valuable career tips from the professionals, such how to network and ways to stand out from the crowd when seeking employment.
Student feedback and next steps
In the feedback, both the rich pictures exercise and the round tables were among the most well received aspects. After a day of networking, hearing inspiring stories and learning how to tackle challenges, the students left armed with knowledge, new skills and good intentions; activities such as further reading, investigating potential workplaces and updating LinkedIn profiles were all high on the students’ list of priorities following a day of food sector inspiration.
“The workplace talks really opened my mind on where people can do and calmed my nerves [about] not knowing where I want to go yet” Student feedback