European Food Research and Technology

, Volume 240, Issue 5, pp 871–884 | Cite as

Skill development in food professionals: a European study

  • Luis Mayor
  • Katherine Flynn
  • Efimia Dermesonluoglu
  • Paola Pittia
  • Erik Baderstedt
  • Barbara Ruiz-Bejarano
  • Mihaela Geicu
  • Mafalda A. C. Quintas
  • Zoltan Lakner
  • Rui Costa
Review Paper


The food sector is the largest employer in the European Union, yet it ranks low in innovation and few educated young people pursue food careers. Updating both the skills and the image of food science and technology professionals (FSTs) first requires understanding the current situation. This work compares the view of currently employed FSTs (3,007) with that of food science and technology (FST) employers (602) regarding skills and when and where they should be developed. European FSTs responded to a web-based survey in 2011 and 2012, and FST employers responded to an e-mail-based survey and/or attended brainstorming workshops from 2009 to 2012. Soft skills, especially those related with communication, were the best evaluated by both groups, whereas technical non-food skills were in the lowest positions. FSTs were judged qualified by their employers in some food skills (food safety and quality, product development, production), while others (engineering maintenance, consumer and nutritional sciences, environmental issues) were more poorly evaluated. In general, FSTs believe themselves to be well qualified by higher education programs, and most of them do not continue training once they are working, with the notable exception of those that achieve positions of high responsibility. However, employers appeared to disagree, recommending that education and training in soft, food and technical skills continue throughout working life. Additionally, they recommended more frequent reinforcement of soft than of food or technical skills. A competitive food sector requires FSTs of the highest quality, and understanding the view of FSTs and their employees can contribute to improved training and thus benefit the European food sector.


Education Skill Training Lifelong learning Food science Food technology 



Agriculture science and technology/engineering




Cross-curricular learning


Chemical engineering


University and other school extracurricular activities


University degree course work


School course work before university degree


Environmental engineering


Economic science


Food and drink industry


Food science and technology


Food science and technology/engineering


Food science and technology professionals


Language subjects


Marketing science/consumer behavior


Management (including quality and safety)




Non-available information


Nutrition and health




Personal life


Professional organizations


Sensory science


Safety and hygiene


Small- and medium-size enterprises


Specific subjects


Government/certification authorities


Non-formal training


Non-formal training, including workplace


Training organizations


Workplace training


Formal training at workplace



The authors wish to acknowledge European Commission for their financial support through the TRACK_FAST project (Coordination and Support Action, FP7 KBBE 227220). Author Luis Mayor wishes to acknowledge JCI2009-04923 Grant to the Ministerio de Economia y Competitividad (Spain).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Compliance with Ethics Requirements

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luis Mayor
    • 1
  • Katherine Flynn
    • 2
  • Efimia Dermesonluoglu
    • 3
  • Paola Pittia
    • 4
  • Erik Baderstedt
    • 5
  • Barbara Ruiz-Bejarano
    • 6
  • Mihaela Geicu
    • 7
  • Mafalda A. C. Quintas
    • 8
  • Zoltan Lakner
    • 9
  • Rui Costa
    • 10
  1. 1.Instituto Universitario de Ingeniería de Alimentos para el DesarrolloUniversidad Politécnica de ValenciaValenciaSpain
  2. 2.The European Association for Food SafetySAFE ConsortiumBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.School of Chemical EngineeringNational Technical University of AthensAthensGreece
  4. 4.Faculty of Bioscience, Technology for Food, Agriculture and EnvironmentUniversity of TeramoMosciano S. AngeloItaly
  5. 5.SIK – The Swedish Institute for Food and BiotechnologyGothenburgSweden
  6. 6.AINIA Centro TecnológicoPaternaSpain
  7. 7.Universitatea de Stiinte Agonomice si Medicina Veterinara BucurestiBucharestRomania
  8. 8.CBQF/Escola Superior de BiotecnologiaPortoPortugal
  9. 9.Faculty of ScienceCorvinus University of BudapestBudapestHungary
  10. 10.Escola Superior Agrária do Instituto Politécnico de CoimbraCERNASBencanta, CoimbraPortugal

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