Food processing workers operate production equipment and perform other routine tasks involved in the production of a wide range of foods and drinks. They focus on ensuring the foods they produce, which may be chilled, frozen, baked, sliced or ground, meet the required quality standards. With good technical and practical skills, and a superior ability to follow procedures, you can become a competent food processing worker.
What do Food Processing Workers do?
Food processing workers are usually stationed at various points in a production line. They may specialise in specific areas, such as mixing, cooking or packing. Although the duties of food processing workers could also vary with the type of food being processed, they generally perform the following tasks;
- Operate food conveyor and processing machines
- Mix ingredients according to recipes or processing methods
- Sterilise food processing equipment and keep the workplace clean at all times
- Report equipment malfunctions to production line leaders
- Receive, inspect, sort and store raw materials
Since food processing workers often work in manufacturing settings, shift systems involving evening and weekend work are quite common. Irrespective of how irregular your work schedule is, expect to work between 35 to 40 hours a week.
The following table highlights the salaries for food processing workers at various career levels.
Qualified but inexperienced workers
£13,000 - £16,000
Up to £20,000
Source: National Careers Service
Although formal qualifications are not required to become a food processing worker, most employers prefer applicants who have completed secondary education. Besides, a good general education can be a springboard for career progression.
Completing a food and drink apprenticeship program is also an ideal way to launch your food processing career.
Important Skills and Abilities
What do you need to become an effective food processing worker? Well, you need;
- Strong teamwork skills
- An ability to follow instructions accordingly
- Good attention to detail
- An understanding of basic food hygiene and safety rules
- A willingness to learn new food productions methods
Employers provide on-the-job training to help beginning workers enhance their knowledge of food production methods, food hygiene and workplace safety. Although this will improve your productivity, it may not improve your career progression prospects. Instead, you ought to pursue industry qualifications, such as;
- Level 2 Award in Food Safety for Manufacturing
- Level 2 Certificate/Diploma for Proficiency in Food Manufacturing Excellence
- Level 1 Diploma in Food Industry Skills
- Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Fish and Shellfish Industry Skills
- Level 2 Diploma for Proficiency in Food Team Leading.
Some of the institutions in the UK offering credible food courses include;
- National Centre for Food Manufacturing, Lincoln
- Warwickshire College, Warwickshire
- Duchy College, Cornwall
- West Herts College, Watford
The top employers for food processing workers are;
- Dairy plants
- Meat processing companies
- Soft drink producers
- Hotels and eateries
Although the National Careers Service predicts an employment decline in the manufacturing sector between 2014 and 2020, aspiring food processing workers should not be discouraged. The UK’s food processing industry is vast, creating the need for more workers.
Finally, as a general rule of thumb, focus on making applications to as many companies as possible to enhance your chances of finding work.
Visit the Food and Drink Federation website for more industry information.