Sheffield Hallam University was this week unveiled as home to the UK’s first food manufacturing degree and centre of excellence.

Having beaten off competition from eight other universities, it was chosen by the FDF and skills council Improve, having impressed with its previous work on food technology.

The food and drink industry hopes the course will address a huge skills gap in the UK workforce, which is hindering companies’ recruitment and training.

The first 40 students are due to start the course in September 2014, with leading food companies including Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Mars set to be heavily involved in designing the course, choosing the students and offering jobs.

“It’s estimated there will be a reduction of up to 14% in the number of graduates by 2020,” said FDF human resources director Angela Coleshill. “It’s going to become even more difficult for companies to recruit and until now the training in this country has not been fit for purpose.”

Coleshill also revealed plans for another new university course in supply chain and sustainability issues.

“The industry has identified a skills gap in this area and we’d like to see a similar process as we’ve done with the food manufacturing course,” Coleshill added.

Dr Martin Howarth, head of engineering and mathematics at Sheffield Hallam University added: “The project builds on our strong track record of providing excellent engineering education in partnership with leading industrial employers.”