Make a meal out of work

Food processing workers produce and pack a wide variety of food items, including frozen, canned, baked, dried, and pasteurised products.

If you can follow procedures and work quickly, this job could suit you well.

To be good at this job you will also need to be observant, so you can spot problems with the food you are working with. You will need to be able to concentrate for long periods.

There aren’t any set entry requirements to get into this job. However, some employers may prefer you to have some GCSEs.

As a food processing worker you would usually work on a fast moving production line, which has food passing along conveyor belts, through different stages such as mixing, cooking and packing. Your duties could include checking and controlling the machinery that processes the food, making sure the production line has a constant supply of raw materials or ingredients, adjusting the speed of the conveyor belt if necessary, checking instruments such as temperature gauges and keeping machines clean at all times.

When problems occur with the production process, you would stop the machine and report the fault to a supervisor or engineer.

You would usually work between 37 and 40 hours a week over five days. Some factories operate a shift system involving evening, night and weekend work.

Your job would mainly take place on the production line of a large factory. The temperature in a factory will vary depending on the type of food being processed.

You will work to high standards of hygiene and you will wear clean, protective clothing and a hat or hairnet.

Starting salaries can be around £11,900 a year, although apprentices may earn less. With experience this can rise to between £13,500 and £16,500 a year. Shift leaders and supervisors may earn up to £25,000.

You may be able to start as a food processing worker without any qualifications. However, some employers may prefer you to have some GCSEs.

A good secondary education may also help your career prospects

Once you are working, you will usually receive on-the-job training covering issues such as health and safety, food hygiene, and technical aspects of the production line process.

You may also be couraged to work towards qualifications such as Award, Certificate and/or Diploma for Proficiency in Food Industry Skills at Levels 2 and 3, Award, Certificate and/or Diploma for Proficiency in Food Manufacturing , Excellence at Levels 2, 3 and 4.

Certificate in Food Safety and Certificate in Health and Safety.

To be a food processing worker you should have the ability to follow instructions and procedures, a good understanding of health and safety and basic hygiene rules, good powers of observation to spot problems with produce, the ability to maintain concentration for repetitive tasks, accuracy and attention to detail, the ability to act quickly when there is a problem, good teamworking skills and the ability to work alone.

The food production industry in the UK is vast, so opportunities for career progression are good. Many companies offer internal promotion leading to supervisory and management posts.

Employers in this area often specialise in one aspect of food production, such as baking, freezing or brewing. In some cases process work is seasonal, for example, canning and freezing soft fruit and vegetables.

Jobs are advertised in the local and national press, in Jobcentre Plus offices, and Directgov (Jobseekers page).