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News > Discover Food and Drink Apprenticeships at CAFRE, transform your career


Discover Food and Drink Apprenticeships at CAFRE, transform your career

February 7, 2022

NI Apprenticeship Week Monday 7th – Friday 11th February

Although the last two years have been challenging for everyone involved in Food and Drink, it has proven just how resilient the industry is in Northern Ireland. Businesses have been agile and innovative to ensure the best of our local produce and products have continued to be available to customers both locally and further afield. There is no doubt that the processing and manufacturing sector continues to grow and with unprecedented job opportunities, there has never been a better time to work in our dynamic local food industry.

In order to sustain this period of growth, many food and drink employers are working with the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to attract new entrants into their business and develop seasoned employees to advance up the career ladder.

Food and Drink Apprenticeships

CAFRE’s Food and Drink Apprenticeship programmes combine invaluable on-the-job training with focussed learning provided by CAFRE’s industry-experienced team to really make the most of ‘earn while you learn’.

Apprenticeship benefits

Food and Drink Apprenticeships result in highly skilled employees, offering many benefits to both Apprentices and their employers. For the Apprentice, they benefit from earning as they learn, achieving a recognised qualification with no fees, gaining a wealth of real-life industry experience, and engaging in relevant training and skills development throughout the Apprenticeship programme. For employers, the many benefits include training new and existing employees to fill high level skills gaps relevant to their company, developing high calibre future leaders, improving productivity, increasing staff morale and improving employee retention.

How Apprenticeships work

Combining work, on the job learning and part-time study, Apprentices are employed within the NI agri-food industry for the duration of their programme, attending classes throughout the year. Depending on the programme, these are delivered either in the workplace or at CAFRE’s Loughry Campus in Cookstown. Food and Drink Apprenticeship programmes are fully funded by the Department for the Economy NI offering the learner a study route with no fees. Apprentices are paid by their employer for the duration of their study programme for both working on site and for the time they spend attending classes with the College.

CAFRE Higher Level Apprenticeships getting to grips with the robot in Loughry’s new Robotics and Automation Laboratory. 

Higher level programmes

CAFRE offers Food and Drink Apprenticeships across a wide range of levels to suit those in operative and supervisory roles right through to those in technical and managerial roles. Through the Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) and Degree Apprenticeship route, Apprentices can achieve a Degree in Food and Drink Manufacture without incurring any fees – this is a particularly attractive option for young people who have the ambition to succeed but don’t want full-time study at College or University.

The HLA and Degree Apprenticeships in Food and Drink Manufacture are validated by Ulster University and have been developed in partnership with industry employers and professionals to ensure that the curriculum is modern, relevant and meets industry needs. Subjects studied include sustainability, supply chain management, robotics and automation, environmental management, food fraud, food safety and leadership to name just a few. These programmes ensure that graduates are equipped with the strong practical skills and the academic knowledge the industry requires.

Level 2 and Level 3 Apprenticeships

CAFRE’s Food and Drink Apprenticeships provide an exciting learning experience.  Apprenticeships at Level 2 and Level 3 are offered across all food sectors including bakery, dairy, fresh produce, and meat and poultry. The curriculum for these programmes is developed in partnership with employers to ensure its meets current employer needs and adds value to the Apprentices completing it.

Apprenticeship achievements

Recognising success is important for CAFRE’s Apprenticeship programmes. Recent successes include Lakeland Dairies, reaching the finals in the Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Awards 2022 for the ‘SME Award’. The company are delivering a Level 2 Food and Drink Apprenticeship in partnership with CAFRE.

In addition, Lewis Connelly from Linden Foods, who is currently studying for a HLA in Food and Drink Manufacture, has reached the finals in the Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Awards 2022 for the ‘HLA Award’. These significant achievements pay testament to the success that both apprentices and employers can achieve through Food and Drink Apprenticeship programmes.  

Develop your staff through Apprenticeships

CAFRE’s Food and Drink Apprenticeship programmes are essential for providing the Northern Ireland Food and Drink industry with suitably qualified employees to support their sustainable growth in a fast-paced and constantly evolving industry. Resulting in highly motivated, engaged, productive, knowledgeable and skilled employees, graduates have an impressive CV, a recognised qualification, no debt, and are ready to take on the challenge of being future leaders. These programmes have a positive impact for the learners, for their employers and for CAFRE, with the potential to unearth exciting new talent within the agri-food industry. 

Loughry Campus

CAFRE’s food courses are suitable for school leavers and those interested in developing a career in the food industry.

For those with GCSE or equivalent qualifications study for a Level 3 National Diploma in Food. Honours Degrees in Food Technology, Food Business Management and Food Innovation and Nutrition are available for those who have attained A-Levels or equivalent qualifications.

For more information on Food programmes at Loughry Campus visit our course pages or email: Discover how a qualification in Food could transform your career.