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Entry routes for non-graduates into the food industry

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7 min read
Graduate shaking hands with professor

If you’ve always wanted to get involved with the food industry as your chosen career path, but don’t think university is for you, don’t worry.

There are many options to choose from at 18 and going to university is not the sole way of getting into the career path of your choice. 

The route that is right for you will depend on your situation and the specific career or job within the food industry that you have in mind.

Below, we describe some of the ways that you can break into the food industry that doesn’t rely on you going to university. 

Finding out what job will suit you

When it comes to finding the right career path for you in the food industry, you may feel as if you have been boxed into a different industry or path with your chosen subjects at school. This can lead to a feeling of being stuck and being forced to choose a course at university, but what if we told you that you can navigate your way into the food industry even without going to university?

If you have a specific job in mind that you want to pursue within the food industry, follow the guide below to find out what options are available to you and what option entails.

Where do I go from here?

Once you’ve decided what job within the food industry you wish to pursue, the next step is to discover how to achieve that role.

Get straight into work

Your next steps into the food industry may involve getting right into the workplace. Here, you can earn a wage, try out a job within the industry, and begin networking. This could even provide you with the skills you need to start your own business.

Get a kick start job

A kick start job is a 6-month paid job with a local employer in the food industry. These jobs are funded by the UK government and applicants must be aged 16 to 24, in receipt of Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. Kickstart jobs also help those who complete the 6-month job to create a stronger CV and a better chance of securing their next job in the food industry.


Internships in the food industry involve a 1 week to 1 year period of work experience where you can try out a job within your specific sector and get to know the industry itself. These take place within the workplace themselves, with interns often learning essential skills on the job which will help them to apply to full-time jobs in the food industry in the future.

Get your first job

Alternatively, with an up-to-date CV and cover letter that includes your qualifications and relevant experience, you could get straight into the working world within the food industry and start earning a wage within your desired sector.

Combine work and study

Spend time in a real workplace while working towards a qualification that your desired employer needs. By combining work and study, you can improve the skills you need for your desired industry all while getting work experience – helping you to understand what the industry is really like. Some options, like apprenticeships, also allow you to earn while you learn.


A traineeship is a course that involves a relevant work placement in your desired industry that will help you get ready to undertake an apprenticeship or apply for a job. Traineeships ensure you receive proper work experience, along with some extra help to apply for the next steps once your traineeship has concluded.

Traineeships typically last from 6 weeks to 1 year in duration and you’ll spend a minimum of 70 hours in a work placement; with the rest of your time being spent in a college or training centre. In this time, you can improve your maths and English skills.

Supported internships

If you are a young person with learning difficulties or learning disabilities, a supported internship offers that extra bit of help that you need in order to get a job. These internships are a minimum of 6 months, and you’ll spend a majority of your time on placements with an employer.

During this time, you’ll be learning the skills you need to succeed in the workplace, alongside receiving help from a tutor and job coach in a college setting or with a specialist provider.


When discussing apprenticeships, it is good to keep in mind that apprenticeships are available at a range of different levels. The levels of apprenticeship range from intermediate, advanced higher, to degree-level, and they all combine practical on-the-job skills training with off-the-job learning during the course of a year.

With an apprenticeship, you’ll begin the relevant training that is needed for your chosen job; spending 80% of your time in the workplace and the remaining 20% with some study – you can even be paid a salary to earn while you learn.

School leaver schemes

School leaver schemes offer the chance to learn and train with a large company in the food industry while earning a wage. This is a similar scheme to graduate employment, but they can run over a longer period of time. 

These schemes range from 3 to 7 years in duration, with you often rotating between different locations with the same company in order to obtain the most experience. It can also include distance learning time in a college or university provider. All you need to achieve a school leaver scheme are high-grade A levels or equivalent, and a keen interest in your chosen industry.

Why not continue your studies

You may need to improve your results or qualifications before you’re able to take the next step into your chosen job role. To achieve this, you could complete a course that gives you the time to explore your options within the food industry, or you could get a work-related qualification.

If you choose to move on to a higher level of learning, you could study at a university, college, Institute of Technology (IoT), or a national college. Some of these options also include learning online and studying part-time if a full-time university course is not for you.

Exam retakes

If you didn’t get the results you wanted with your exams, you can resit some of your courses or even sign up for some new qualifications such as level 2 and 3 qualifications like GCSE, A level and BTEC. Once you’ve achieved the qualifications that you need, you will be able to move on to a higher level or degree apprenticeship, further education, higher education, or even begin work.

Higher technical skills courses

These courses enable you to learn the higher level skills that employers in the food industry will want from you in a classroom-taught course. High technical skills courses typically take 1 to 2 years to complete, taking place within a college or university setting, some of which specialise in food subjects as part of an Institute of Technology or National College.

Want to learn more about the food industry?

If you liked this article, you may want to learn more about the food industry, the latest innovations in the industry, and more. We have a fantastic range of food-related topics available to sate your need for knowledge – simply peruse at your leisure.

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If you’re interested in staying up to date with the most relevant and breaking news in the food industry, you’re in luck. We can keep you informed with weekly updates on the latest developments in the industry, as well as ingredient launches, current trends, news, events, and even masterclasses by special guests.

Do you have any questions?

If you have questions, we’re sure to have the answers. If you’re simply interested in learning more about an exciting topic, or you have a question about something related to the food industry, just get in touch with our team and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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