Food Technology: A potential outlook

2015-07-22

Republica National Daily

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There are many instances where parents force their children to study medical science or engineering and choose career paths that lead to “well-paying jobs.” In the context of Nepal, only a few of them grant their children the liberty to choose subjects and career of their own choice.

Manoj Adhikari considers himself lucky to have parents who let him pursue a career path of his own choice. A resident of Rupnagar, Saptari, he is a third-year student pursuing Bachelor in Food Technology at National Academy of Applied Science and Technology (NAAST College)  in Dharan. 

He had previously thought of enrolling into B. Sc. physics program after he passed +2 from Biratnagar-based Birat Science College . However, he had a second thought after he came to know about a degree in food technology. He can point out numerous reasons for his decision to pursue B Tech (Food), among them is job assurance.

"You will not be without a job once you earn the degree. None of the seniors I know are jobless," said Manoj, adding, "If you are not interested in jobs, you can go to your own village and operate small industry of juice, dairy, bakery, sauce, among others, after completing the bachelor degree."

Lack of employment-oriented education have forced thousands of youths to go abroad in search of menial jobs. Youths who have successfully completed degrees in food technology, however, are offered attractive job opportunities in the country itself. Many newly opened drinks and food factories and companies in Nepal are still short of qualified human resources. There are equally good opportunities at various INGOs (International Non-Governmental Agencies), NGOs, and even government bodies for qualified food technicians. Similarly, demands are equally high in large food industries abroad. The degrees not just help people land in good jobs, but also set up a new business, thus, contributing to create more job opportunities.

At present, undergraduate (B. Tech) and graduate (M. Tech) degrees in food technology in Nepal is offered by Central Campus of Technology  located in Bijayapur of Dharan-14. Apart from Central Campus, NAAST Collage of Dharan also offers four-years of B. Tech programs. The college also offers I. Tech (Intermediate Technology), a three-year diploma course in food and dairy technology.

After the government phased out Proficient Certificate Level (PCL), NAAST is the only college in Eastern Developmental Region (EDR) to offer I. Tech course with the affiliation from the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT).

Female students scoring at least 45% and male scoring 50% in SLC are eligible to join the three-year diploma course on food/dairy technology. Ironically, most of the Dharan locals do not know about the unique course offered in their own locality, said Sachin Basnet, food lab in-charge of NAAST College.

“There is high demand in the market for I. Tech. graduates as the country has not been able to produce enough human sources,” said Basnet. According to him, nine students have completed I. Tech. from the college last year. Six of the graduates are currently employed at factories that produce oil, biscuits and other products, while the others are pursuing higher studies in B.Tech. Those students who had chosen +2 science instead of I. Tech are also eligible to join B. Tech.

Another plus point about the course is its cost factor. According to the college, the three-year course costs just Rs 200,000, which it said is cheaper than the one offered by CTEVT.

“Many companies call us looking for I. Tech students. But we are not able to meet their demands,” said Basanta Kumar Rai, vice-principal of Central Campus of Technology, Biratnagar.

B. Tech graduates can apply for section officer and I. Tech graduates can apply for technical assistant post in case of government service. The option to go into government service has also added to the popularity of the courses.

Little know program on nutrition science

Although Central Campus of Technology has been offering four-year graduate degrees in nutrition and foods  since 2011, very few people know about it. Twenty-four students enroll in this program every year and those securing top three positions in entrance exam get full scholarship.

“Knowledge regarding nutrition is very poor in our country. Hence, the subject itself holds high significance in the context of Nepal. There are not enough nutrition scientists in the country,” said Dambar Bahadur Khadka, divisional head of the college. “Although very few know about the program, we have been receiving better response gradually. Students from as far as Kathmandu and Pokhara have enrolled in our college in the last few years,” he said. Students who have passed +2 from science stream areligible for the program.

National Planning Commission has also acknowledged the importance of nutrition science in Nepal’s context. “It is very difficult to find home-grown nutrition scientists in Nepal. All such scientists in the country have degrees from abroad,” said Khadka.

Skilled manpower in the field become dietician at hospitals or gets hired by the Ministry of Health for various programs such as child nutrition, among others. Similarly, Ministry of Education hires such human resources for nutrition education program. People with degree in nutrition also land jobs at various INGOs and NGOs. Similarly, they can also work as  researchers for agro-based companies.

This article written by Rohit Rai was initially published in Republica National daily.