In this article, first written for CLEAPSS’ FutureMinds special edition focusing on the future of Design and Technology in schools (autumn 2020), Frances discusses future careers in ‘food’.
With the development of a new careers resource for schools on Food a fact of life it has led me to think more about the wide range of careers in food, and how these have changed over the years. Careers exist now that wouldn’t have been dreamt of when I started my working life! So, what will careers in food look like in years to come, and will your future pupils be inspired to take a journey in food? According to DEFRA’s Food Statistics Pocket Book, there were 4.1 million people employed in the agri-food chain at the end of 2019, 13% of GB employment. However, there are really two types of careers in food, those that feed the nation and those that inform the nation.
Careers that feed the nation
Farming covers 17.5 million hectares in the UK, which is 72% of the land, and employs 476,000 people. However, we are only 64% self-sufficient for food. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the UK climate, our changing seasons and the fact that it is not economical to grow all crops/produce in the UK. The weather in the UK, and around the world, has a considerable impact on agriculture, and the food produced could alter significantly with climate change. As well as threats to crop yields, climate change may also decrease the nutritional quality of important staple foods. Therefore, ‘newer’ agriculture careers, such as agronomy (soil and crop science), will become even more important to ensure that the land is able to produce the drought-, flood- and pest-resilient crops that the world will need in the future. Alternatively, will we make more use of the waters around the UK, and the world, and focus more on careers in aquaculture?
As well as the issue of climate change, a question that future generations working to feed the nation will also have to answer is “How do we produce more food with fewer resources, such as land, water and fuel, to feed the growing global population?” Perhaps one of your pupils will be inspired to work towards an answer? Careers that feed the nation also include food processing. All the roles that are needed to ensure that the ingredients and food that we buy and eat are safe, meet our needs as consumers and offer healthier options. Careers include those in food safety and quality, food science, new product development, nutrition, primary and secondary processing, and technology and engineering. Food is also provided for us to buy in small shops, markets and supermarkets, to cook and eat at home, and to enjoy in cafes, coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Also, all those parties, weddings and celebrations that we plan and attend wouldn’t be the same without the food and drink provided. Could one of your pupils be a future festivals and event manager or run their own butcher, baker or deli? All these careers provide fantastic opportunities for young people, but will what you teach excite and inspire them enough to find out more?
Careers that inform the nation
The current nutritional status in the UK is in decline with, in 2018, the majority, 67% of men and 60% of women, of adults in England being overweight or obese, and 20% of year 6 children being obese. There is also a prevalence of malnutrition, both under and over nutrition. Following the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s health, in July 2020 the government in England unveiled a 12-week plan to help people to become fitter and lose weight. Who is going to help the public become healthier? It will be those working in dietetics, health care and nutrition. Could they be one of your future pupils, inspired by their food and nutrition lessons? Alternatively, could one of your pupils help keep us safe when eating out in the future by becoming an Environmental Health Practitioner? Eating out of home is on the rise, The FSA’s (Food Standards Agency) Food and You Survey (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) reported that almost all respondents (96%) ate out, with 43% doing so at least once or twice a week. Ensuring food is safe to eat will be increasingly important. How about the next generation of teachers, lecturers, trainers, researchers or educational resource producers? Could you be the one that a new teacher refers to as their inspiration? Finally, the world of communicating about food. Future generations will be even more adept at social media, more comfortable with advertising, marketing, food writing and blogging. Will one of your pupils be a future food stylist working for a food magazine, television show or PR agency? Whatever the future brings, we will always need food and drink. As we say at the BNF, food really is a fact of life. Will you be the one to inspire the next, and future, generation to feed and inform the nation?
Is there something wrong with the page? Do you have a suggestion or would like to see something on this page?