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TrackFast project asks: What makes the perfect food scientist?

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 09-Oct-2012

An online database could help foster appropriate skills
An online database could help foster appropriate skills

Researchers are seeking to produce a database of the most desirable skills for food scientists and technologists in different parts of the European Union in an effort to better align training programmes with food industry needs.

The research – part of the EC’s TrackFast project (Training Requirements and Careers for Knowledge-based Food Science and Technology in Europe) – asked food scientists and technologists (FST) to contribute their views on the most desirable skills in a series of 16 workshops in 16 different European countries, from March 2010 to August 2011.

Between them, they offered more than 3000 desirable skills, and ‘communicating’ came up most often, identified 13% of the time. Analysis of other skills mentioned revealed that many would fall under the umbrella of ‘product development’ – a skill that was considered desirable by 28% of participants.

However, skills varied considerably between the workshops.

“Geographical region, employment area and FST level of responsibility all significantly influenced the top 3 choices of overall skills and of food sector skills, indicating that most desired skills in the food industry are not uniform,” the paper’s authors wrote.

They said the intention was to create an interactive database on the TrackFast project website based on interactions of three variables: Location, sector and responsibility level.

“The study, based on a coordinated programme of information gathering through discussions with local FST employers, thus provides stakeholders with a forum within which their main needs are considered,” they wrote. “This work therefore makes an important contribution to the TrackFast objective of creating a more innovative and competitive food and drink sector, which is a key area for job creation, global competition and societal benefit in Europe.”

Most of the skills mentioned – 2256 out of 3348 – were not industry-specific. Apart from ‘communicating’, other non-industry-specific skills included ‘thinking and solving problems’ and ‘demonstrating positive attitudes and behaviours’, which each accounted for about 9% of mentions.

Topping the list of skills specific to the food industry was ‘product development’, followed by ‘food legislation and control’ and ‘food safety management, food hygiene and food safety control’. The paper’s authors noted that as with other skills, the relative importance of each of these areas varied by region, level of responsibility of the FST professional and employment area.

 

Source: Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ifset.2012.09.004

“Ideal skills for European food scientists and technologists: Identifying the most desired knowledge, skills and competencies”

Authors: Katherine Flynna, Erik Wahnströmb, Mona Popac, Mafalda A.C. Quintas

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