Food science and technology students self-evaluate soft and technical skills
Food Scientists and Technologists (FS&T) need diverse skills in the globalized food and drink sector: Food-specific or scientific / technical skills and generic or intuitive soft skills. This study determined how satisfied FS&T students were with overall improvement, and in key technical and soft skills, based on their university work; and if satisfaction was linked to geography, degree in progress, anticipated degree, anticipated work place or anticipated job responsibility. An on-line survey was completed by 267 students in over 20 countries using a 5-point Likert scale to evaluate satisfaction. Responses were analyzed by the Friedman or Kruskal Wallis tests for more than two groups, otherwise by the Wilcoxon Signed Rank or Mann-Whitney tests. There were no differences in Overall Satisfaction with technical and soft skills training. Among soft skills, training in Working with Others and Being Responsible were more often rated “Excellent” and students were more satisfied with their training than with Solving Problems, Communication and Positive Attitude. Students anticipating a job with high responsibility were more satisfied with overall soft skill training and with 3 of the 5 specific soft skills. Among technical skills, students were more satisfied with improvement in basic sciences (Microbiology, Chemistry, Processing, Safety), and those in Northern Europe were more satisfied with overall technical training. These data show variations in perception and/or efficacy of technical and soft skill training in Food Science programmes and underline the need for separate attention to the incorporation of soft skill training into the design of FS&T courses.
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