An interview with CAFRE student Jessica McCann (by Ron Gardiner)
I recently met with Jessica and her line manager Alister Farmer at their workplace in Huhtamaki Antrim. Jessica is currently working with Huhtamaki as a placement student from CAFRE, the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise.
Huhtamaki is a global packaging company and has recently opened a new factory in Co Antrim with the creation of 100 jobs. The factory produces sustainable paper straws for numerous global brand owners and Huhtamaki plan to invest around £12million into this venture over the next five years.
Jessica could you tell us a little about how you came to be working for a company in Northern Ireland that makes paper drinks straws?
I am currently studying a degree in Food Technology at Loughry Campus, CAFRE. As part of my course we are encouraged to take a placement year and I was fortunate to be offered my placement with Huhtamaki as a Research and Development Technologist.
Jessica how did your studies in food lead to a placement in a packaging company?
Well our degree course in Loughry covers packaging which is actually a very interesting subject and also very topical at the moment thanks to David Attenborough Blue Planet series on TV which highlighted the environmental issues linked to plastics in our oceans and seas. I studied packaging fundamentals in first year and I won a £1,000 pound bursary for being the top student in the class. This module gave me an interest in packaging and my course tutor encouraged me to apply for the role with Huhtamaki. The money I have used wisely to help pay for my car insurance to get me to and from my placement.
So what does a typical day involve for you Jessica?
I work from 8am to 4.30pm in the Antrim factory and drive from home in Lurgan every day. I work closely with Alister developing new products and solutions to meet the ever growing environmental needs of our major customers and monitor quality on line. I also work closely with the laboratories in Loughry in developing testing regimes to ensure our products meet customer expectations and specifications.
Alister as Jessica’s line manager how do you feel she has got on with the placement?
Well Ron, we will miss Jessica’s input and that says a lot. She has done a great job and her work in conjunction with the technical services provided by Loughry Campus have been invaluable in getting this project successfully up and running. In fact Jessica has done that well that we wish to retain her on a part time basis when she returns to the college in September.
Jessica are you looking forward to returning to Loughry?
Yes and no. I will miss the people here at work and I have really enjoyed the job and it is a bit daunting thinking that I am returning to study the final year of my degree. But it will be great to meet up with all my class mates again.
So Jessica would you recommend Loughry to other school leavers who have big decisions to make over the coming weeks when their A level results come out?
Most definitely yes! It’s a lovely Campus with students who become friends for life and the staff are all friendly and very approachable, in fact I would say it’s like a home from home. All my class mates got good placements and there are excellent career opportunities at the end of the course. I know that there are open evenings coming up this month so I would encourage school leavers to why drop into one of the CAFRE campuses or have a look online at what they have to offer.
For more Information, why not take Jessica’s Advice and drop in and see the CAFRE family
Our careers advice evenings will take place on Thursday 22 August 2019, 7pm. At all three Campuses;
Greenmount Campus, Antrim
Enniskillen Campus, Enniskillen
Loughry Campus, Cookstown
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