Twenty-five pupils from Ipswich schools will be among the first in the country to start a new two-year apprenticeship in Food and Drink Manufacturing.

The fourteen-year-old students from five Ipswich secondary schools started the course this month, in addition to their core academic subjects, such as maths and English.

As part of the programme, they will learn practical skills at Otley College and will undertake work placements with local employers.

The programme has been developed by Improve, the UK food and drink sector skills council, and is being managed locally by the South West Ipswich 14-19 Partnership - a collaboration between Chantry High School, Otley College and local employers.

The partnership secured government funding earlier this year, and is one of only two in the UK that are trialling the programme, along with Nantwich in Cheshire.

Trudy Stannard, assistant head at Chantry High School, said: “This is the first time pupils at such a young age have been able to follow a recognised food and drink training programme while still at school, and we’re privileged to be among the first in the country to trial it. The scheme will benefit everyone involved, giving students more flexible learning opportunities and good employability skills, and providing employers with a pool of high-quality potential recruit.

Students will spend the first six months of the course learning about practical aspects of working in a manufacturing environment, including essential health and safety knowledge, before starting to work with local employers early in 2007.

Terry Fennell, learning and frameworks manager at Improve said: “We are still looking for more employers to get involved in the programme.

"It’s a great opportunity for employers to raise their profiles among young people, who will hopefully be inspired to embark upon a career in food and drink.”

Employers interested in participating can email Trudy Stannard on