You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets
Adrian McMenamin is a young Letterkenny man who is an expert in quality. Since graduating in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Nutrition, he has worked to upkeep quality and safety standards in some of the industry’s key players.
The 25-year-old has progressed to a role with great responsibility in the largest ready meal factory in Europe. He is a Compliance Auditor in Kerry Foods in Carrickmacross – a huge and successful multinational company. His journey all began in Letterkenny IT (LYIT).
Adrian feels LYIT was the right choice for him because as he outlines “It was close to home and I always had an interest in food. Whenever I saw Food Science right on my doorstep it was just a perfect fit for me. I was just out of the Leaving Cert and a bit unsure of what path I was going to take.”
Life as a first year undergraduate took a lot of adjustment and work, Adrian said. The course is a full-time Level 8 degree. Adrian quickly found himself immersed in many new strands of science subjects.
“It was a huge change from the Leaving Certificate, it was a lot more structured but a lot less disciplined. It was sink or swim. It was way beyond anything I expected but it all worked out in the end.”
“I thought I knew a lot more about the food industry, but I actually knew very little in comparison to what I know now. I got a good general overview of the industry,” he said.
Today, Adrian works with one of the top five suppliers of food ingredients in the world. The Kerry Group factory in Carrickmacross has the capacity to produce 5 million ready meals a week.
The company supplies all the major food retailers in the UK, who demand incredibly high standards and are consistently auditing the site. A factory like this requires staff to assume a level of responsibility to keep everything in order.
“My role is making sure the factory is compliant with our customer’s standards, local legislation and EU laws, so if any customer comes on site or views our paperwork there will be zero problems,” Adrian explained. Through his studies at the LYIT, Adrian learned the ins and outs of food quality from experts who had been part of the industry.
“The lecturers who I found the most helpful were the ones who worked in auditing and their knowledge and expertise was essential. They can than prepare you for every single avenue of it. I even use some of their lessons today,” Adrian said.
Adrian had work experience with a local butcher’s in Letterkenny during his time with the LYIT, where he obtained experience in quality control. He was employed as a Quality Controller with the Carrigans Meat Factory three months after graduating. He had numerous roles within this position, including being responsible for dispatching and making sure the CCPs (Critical Control Points) were being followed.
“The most difficult thing coming out of college for people is getting a job – it’s the age old problem that you can’t get experience without experience,” Adrian said. Through his experience with the butchers and the meat factory he progressed to Kerry Group – the ‘pinnacle of the food industry in Ireland’.
“The most rewarding part was looking back, seeing all the work you’ve done and realising there is light at the end of the tunnel and there are prospects for you,” Adrian said.
The good job prospects that come with studying Food Science was a driving factor for Adrian through the tough years of study. The course involves spending many hours in the laboratories and library of the Letterkenny campus.
“The labs were very well-equipped and the facilities e.g. library, computers were top quality. Graduating felt great, because there was so many times I thought – ‘I am never going to pass this, there is no hope’. When you look back it seemed easy,” Adrian said.
Adrian is focused on progression in his career, which leads him to believe that third level education is an essential step for many young people today. He shared some advice for people are applying with CAO: “Before you dive into any course research it yourself and find out what jobs you can get and what prospects you can get out of it.”
According to Adrian, a qualification doesn’t guarantee success in your career, but it’s a stepping stone. “A degree shows you have the technical know-how to absorb information related to the industry and you know a bit behind it. Once you have that groundwork you can build on it,” he said.