Two dozen students in the food science program at Rome High toured the Center of Innovation at Southeastern Mills on Wednesday, getting a first-hand look at food development.
Natalie Roesler, director of product development for Southeastern Mills, said the food industry is the second largest manufacturing sector in the United States with more than $600 billion in retail sales.
“That’s why we’re here,” said Rome High teacher Margaret Henderson. “We want them to be aware that there are food science jobs and careers right here in Rome.”
Roesler told the students there are generally more positions available than there are graduates to fill them. She added that, in 2011, the median starting salary was $44,000.
“There are internships all over the industry,” Roesler said.
Jeff Waters said he interned with Southeastern Mills while he was in the culinary program at the Art Institute of Atlanta.
“During that internship I inquired about any open positions and was fortunate enough to get hired,” he said. “For the past eight years, I’ve been working in seasoning, batters and breaders for some of the largest processors and some national accounts as well.”
Roesler also briefed the juniors and seniors on the developing field of culinology — blending the education of the traditional chef with the food scientist. She cited The Food Network’s Alton Brown as a leader in the culinology field.
Brandon Williamson said he hadn’t really been considering a career in food science before the trip but was giving it some consideration now. He said he enjoyed the tasting opportunities and liked the regular hours a food science jobs typically offers.
Elliott Coble, with Southeastern Mills, said the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. regimen of his job in the breadings and batters lab was a lot better than operating a restaurant where you might work from 8 a.m. to midnight.
The students took turns rotating through the various sections of the Center of Innovation, learning everything from sensory taste skills to the development of breads and batters used on products all across the industry.