Pupils cook up seven products through employer partnership - Macphie

Over the last seven weeks, we’ve been working with seven local school pupils, giving them the opportunity to concoct and simulate the commercial development of new dessert sauces.

The students in their final year at Mearns Academy, Mackie Academy and Portlethen Academy joined us as part of a foundation apprenticeship in Food and Drink Technology.

We’ve been partnered with Mearns and Mackie Academy since 2017 through the Developing the Young Workforce initiative and for the first time since the pandemic, we’ve had the pupils on site, creating a hands-on work placement which contributes to their school studies and provides practical work experience.

The students have been exposed to different areas within the business, with the end goal being the development and creation of their own new flavours of our popular dessert topping range, o.t.t® which are used by leading restaurants, dessert parlours and bakeries around the world.

First-hand experience

Lewis Mowatt, age 16, a pupil at Mackie Academy, is finalising the creation of a non-alcoholic mulled wine flavoured dessert topping as part of his placement.

He said: “The placement at Macphie is providing me with a very insightful look into the food manufacturing industry through first-hand experience.

“It’s been great to learn all the ins-and-outs of such a modern company with my fellow class mates and I’ve loved having the opportunity to concoct my very own unique sauce!

“This experience has really benefited me as I will now be able to demonstrate my knowledge of the industry to a future employer, presenting myself as a valuable member of a working team.”

Mark Duncan, our technical director said: “Our aim with these partnerships is to inspire careers in the food and drink industry and provide practical support for the next generation.

“It’s been a pleasure to see seven, enthusiastic young people develop their skills and get their creativity flowing during the development of some new dessert toppings.

“Most importantly, this experience will help these budding new chefs and product designers as they take that next step onto the career ladder. We are really looking forward to welcoming even more students to take part in this incredibly worthwhile placement.”

Following a health and safety induction, an introduction to the product design team and lessons in marketing, each apprentice was then tasked with carrying out their own research and creating a new dessert sauce, using flavours such as kiwi, toffee popcorn and fittingly festive gingerbread.

The pupils spent a full day in the development kitchen cooking up their very own recipes, trialling different ingredients and taking part in group product tastings.

The students were also then taken through quality testing, label creation and finally, will present their products to our senior team and product panel, who will provide the students with important feedback on their concepts. If successful, students will gain a SCQF Level 6 qualification.

What do the teachers think?

Lucy Angel, Principal Teacher of Developing the Young Workforce at Mackie Academy, said: “Our pupils have been able to access state-of-the-art facilities, get insight into Aberdeenshire’s thriving food and drink sector and work closely with experts in this field. They were very excited to start their placement – Macphie is a well-known and respected local employer and our pupils felt very privileged that they were able to access such an opportunity.”

Since 2017, we have also run a number of workshops and presentations to support the national curriculum and highlight the opportunities within the food and drinks industry as part of our ongoing commitment to the local community and future workforce.

Robin Christie, Head Teacher at Mearns Academy, said: “For several years, staff from Macphie have visited the school regularly to deliver workshops on job skills and are now providing our students with invaluable on-site placements. This experiential learning exemplifies all that is good about foundation apprenticeships – the pupils have absolutely loved it and if keen to pursue a career in the industry post-school, should have a massive advantage over others looking to follow a similar path.”