MY name is Maria Mullan and I graduated from CAFRE’s Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) in Food and Drink Manufacture in 2021. Following this, I progressed to the Degree Apprenticeship in Food and Drink Manufacture. My learning journey to date has been highly successful and this has been further rewarded with career success.
After completing my A levels, I applied for the Dale Farm Aspire Programme which offered me the opportunity to join a programme with a defined career pathway with a fast track to management positions within Dale Farm. The programme also allowed me to complete the HLA in Food and Drink Manufacture alongside on- the-job training and management development.
I was interested in the apprenticeship programme as it combined my two main interests – agriculture and food manufacture, thus allowing me the opportunity to learn about the entire agri-food supply chain through a combination of on-the-job and off-the-job training. The opportunity to study for the HLA whilst working with Dale Farm appealed to me because I had a strong preference for learning on-the-job and experiencing how things worked in practice, hence “earning as you learn” rather than going to university.
After successfully securing a place on the Dale Farm Aspire programme, I joined the company and commenced my training programme by rotating between each department on the Dale Farm Dunman site for six weeks at a time. Since then I have undertaken roles in the Quality and Technical Department, in the Powder Management Team and as a Cheese and Whey Process Technician.
In each of these roles I have had a high level of responsibility, including quality inspection and auditing, staff management, and process improvement.
On completing the Level 5 HLA and the Dale Farm Aspire programme, I applied for the role of Assistant Production Manager and was successful in securing this position. In this management role I am responsible for managing operational performance and manpower, ensuring high quality products are manufactured, maximising production outputs, reducing waste, and maintaining the health, safety and well-being of all employees within my team. I am also responsible for daily milk planning and for the dispatch plans for all liquid milk leaving the site.
I have gained many benefits from studying for this HLA, including both personal development and professional development. I have developed a lot of confidence having to push myself out of my normal comfort zone to complete tasks and challenge myself to achieve.
I have also developed my communication and interpersonal skills as I regularly deal with suppliers, customers, and senior management teams, as well engaging with peers in the classroom, delivering assessed presentations and writing reports. I have greatly enhanced my knowledge and skills in relation to food and drink manufacture, food safety, business improvement, managing people, and environmental and quality management. This has encouraged me to keep pushing myself further up the career ladder.
For me, enrolling on the Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship seemed a natural progression route after I completed the Level 5 HLA in Food and Drink Manufacture. The Level 6 programme is providing me the opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills further. I hope to graduate in June 2023 with a Level 6 HLA and a BSc (Hons) in Food and Drink Manufacture.
Completing these programmes alongside working with Dale Farm has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience which has allowed me to continually develop myself both as a person and within my job role so I can strive to be the best that I can be.
If you are interested in finding out more about CAFRE’s Higher Level Apprenticeship and Degree Apprenticeship in Food and Drink Manufacture, please visit www.cafre.ac.uk You can also follow CAFRE on Facebook and Instagram at “Discover CAFRE” for information about upcoming information events.
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