A rising star in the food industry has been given a big break by a top bakery.
Maia Larks, 19, has won a £3,000 bursary and a 12-month placement with the fast growing Jones Village Bakery in Wrexham.
The second year student at Harper Adams University at Newport in Shropshire, will be embedded with the New Product Development team.
That means she’s going to be right at the heart of the action because the team is now developing around 80 new products a year for a host of customers, including some of the biggest names in retail.
Maia, who comes from the town of Warfield, near Ascot in Berkshire, is studying for a degree in food technology and product development.
She describes herself as a dedicated foodie and says that winning the Jones Village Bakery Scholarship is a dream come true.
According to Maia, she inherited her love of food from her dad who’s a keen amateur cook.
She said: “I’m absolutely loving the course at Harper Adams and I’m learning so much about food science, marketing and retail as well as new product development and food creativity. It’s great experience.
“I was shocked but so happy when I found I’d won the scholarship. It’s a dream come true and I’m looking forward to working here for a year.
“I’m going to be embedded with the New Product Development team so I’m going to get such fantastic, hands-on experience.
“It’s an exciting place to be because the Village Bakery is growing so much and developing so many new products which means I’m going to be right at the centre of the action.
“It’s quite different learning things in a lecture and being in the world of work, gaining real world experience.
“Once I have completed my studies I would love to have a career in new product development.”
Maia will be working under Florence Roberts, Group New Product Development (NPD) Manager and will be part of a team, appropriately comprising a Baker’s Dozen of 13 people.
Florence, known universally as Floss, said: “To win the scholarship means Maia is a really special talent so this is a real feather in her cap.
“As well as looking for academic excellence, we’re looking for a real passion for food and developing new products – and that’s the most important thing.
“This can be a launching pad for Maia’s career because it’s a great thing to have on your CV.
“It’s a really busy department with a great team and we are developing upwards of 80 new products a year.
“It’s a really exciting time for a student to come and join the team because there is so much going on. They learn such a huge amount by the end of the year.”
Managing director Robin Jones said: “We’re very proud to have Maia on board because she’s a massive talent and very passionate about food.
“I can guarantee she is going to learn a huge amount over the next 12 months and we’re here to support her on that journey.
“As part of the experience, she’ll go abroad and learn about best practice and world class manufacturing.
“One thing I am really happy with is the strength of our relationship with Harper Adams University.
“We see this as an investment in the future of the Village Bakery but also the wider food industry.
“We need to attract talent into the bakery industry and this is an excellent way of doing it.
“At the end of the placement, there’s an opportunity for them to come back to us full time. It’s great for the students and it’s great for the business.
“Having this grounding gives them a real head start in the industry which means they are better prepared for the world of work.
“The secret to our success is giving opportunities to the right people and support the ones who want to progress and run with it.
“We’re a growing business and we are ambitious to keep on an upwards trajectory – we need people with talent and the right attitude coming through to enable that.”