Food for thought: courses and research in Ayrshire and Arran
From opportunities in hospitality and agriculture to pioneering scientific studies
‘Hens can be clumsy fliers and tend to bump into things,which is why smart perch design can reduce any risk of injury,’ explains Vicky Sandilands, senior behaviour and welfare scientist at the Avian Science Research Centre. Whether it’s improving the digestive efficiency of broilers (meat chickens), to understanding the spread of campylobacter in chicken flocks in order to reduce food poisoning, the team at the centre, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), are leading the way in welfare, diet and nutrition and food safety in poultry.
As well as being home to a number of research specialities, the SRUC is also one of the region’s largest educational providers in the food industry, with students at the institution’s Ayr campus able to undertake a variety of degrees, further education awards and vocational skills courses in agricultural science, horticulture and countryside management.
There’s also plenty of choice for those interested in working at the other end of the food chain too. Aspiring chefs can study full-time at Ayrshire College, with the chance to learn their trade in one of the college’s two training restaurants, while the college has even partnered with the Turnberry Hotel to provide workplace-based modern apprenticeships – a first for the region.
Likewise, the Belling Hospitality Centre at Dumfries House provides people aged 16-24 who are not in education, employment or training with hands-on hospitality experience, on both sides of the pass. As well as boasting a state-of the-art teaching kitchen and adjoining restaurant, there are also specialist bartender and barista stations too. Elsewhere on the Dumfries House estate, the Pierburg Building and Kauffman Education Gardens give schoolchildren an introduction to healthy eating, food growing and gardening, plus a model farm, created in partnership with Morrisons, aimed at developing and improving sustainable farming techniques.
And developing a greater understanding of living in harmony with our surroundings, especially in terms of sustainability, countryside management and food production is also part of the remit of the recently-created Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve, one of the first of it’s kind in the UK.
‘Promoting and encouraging learning opportunities will be an important part in the success of the Biosphere project,’ says Nic Coombey, community and learning officer at the UNESCO-established initiative. ‘The purpose of the designation is to recognise somewhere as special not just because of it's natural diversity but because people care for the environment through conservation and sustainable development.’