Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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My route to an agri-food career

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MY name is Emma McHugh and I am currently a student on the Business for Agri-Food and Rural Enterprise Masters programme at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

I grew up on a sheep farm and have always had an interest in a career in the agri-food sector. After completing my A-levels, I decided to undertake a Foundation Degree in Food, Nutrition and Health at CAFRE’s Loughry campus during which I undertook a placement in McKee’s Butchers. My placement gave me an insight to the food industry and showed me that there are a range of jobs and opportunities within the food industry.

After completing my Foundation Degree, I progressed to a BSc (Hons) in Food Technology.

I decided that I would like to develop my management and communication skills further before entering the industry, so I enrolled in the Masters in Business for Agri-food & Rural Enterprise. I knew about the programme from other graduates who recommended it to me and I already knew, from my experiences on the degree course, that the staff at CAFRE would support me and help me achieve my goals.

I chose to complete the programme on a full-time basis, undertaking six taught modules from September 2020 to May 2021. The delivery was online due to the Covid pandemic but we had plenty of opportunity to chat and work in teams. All the assessments were by coursework, and were linked to the agri-food and rural sectors, which meant we were able to make the most of our previous experiences in the industry.

It was great hearing about other people’s experiences, especially since the others on the programme came from a range of backgrounds. During the programme I was able to maintain a part-time job in Frylite as a Quality Assistant. Having a part-time job within the food industry helped to further develop my skills.

At the moment I am completing the research project element of the Masters programme. I am investigating consumer views on plant-based dairy alternatives. This is a fairly new market and I am enjoying learning about the views of the public and the industry as to how sales are likely to grow in the future.

I hope to complete the project by September and graduate with my Masters from Queen’s University Belfast in December 2021, though I still have a bit of hard work to do before then!

I have also recently been appointed to a full-time job in Deli-lites in Warrenpoint, which produces a range of food-to-go products, and am looking forward to my future career in the industry.

I feel the Masters programme has definitely improved my management, communication and business skills. I am really happy with my decision to complete the MSc and I recommend it to anyone who would like to have a management or leadership role within the agri-food and rural sector.

n For more information on the MSc Business for Agri-food and Rural Enterprise course, please visit the CAFRE website (www.cafre.ac.uk) and go to ‘Postgraduate Courses’. You can also follow CAFRE on Facebook and Instagram at ‘Discover CAFRE or access the QUB website www.qub.ac.uk

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