Students meet leaders in the cereal industry

Mariëtta Cronjé, SA Graan/Grain contributor

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Students and leaders in the cereal industry recently had a ground-breaking get-to­gether where they could meet and talk to each other, finding possible common ground and even job opportunities.

The highly successful Meet and Greet event was arranged by Cereal Science & Technology Southern Africa (CST-SA) for prominent industry role-players to meet with students in cereal related fields in an informal and congenial atmosphere. Altogether 34 students from eleven universities, mainly recipients of bursaries funded by the Maize Trust, Sorghum Trust, Sasol Agriculture Trust, the South African Cultivar & Technology Agency (SACTA), the Winter Cereal Trust, the South African National Seed Organisation (SANSOR) and others, were introduced to industry leaders. Representatives of more than ten tertiary education institutions also attended the gathering.

During the Meet and Greet event students were introduced to the role-players in the grain and oilseeds value chain by industry leaders and organisations that provide bursaries. Front: Gert Heyns (CEO, SACTA), Leon du Plessis (administrator, Maize Trust, Sorghum Trust and Sasol Agriculture Trust), Lukeshni Chetty (general manager, SANSOR) and Hector Makhubele (representative, FoodBev SETA). Back: Jannie de Villiers (CEO, Grain SA), Deon van Rooyen (chairperson, SACTA), Sandile Ndlungwane (chairperson, Maize Trust), Mariana Purnell (chairperson, CST-SA and general manager, Agbiz Grain) and Thato Kganakga (representative, Winter Cereal Trust).

Ms Marianna Purnell, chairperson of CST-SA, described the event as highly successful and indicated that they planned to make this kind of meeting an annual event.

‘The main purpose of this type of gathering is for a critical mass of young cereal researchers with scarce skills, from all over the country, to meet and discuss relevant interests with industry role-players. In this way the students can be exposed to the value chain activities, the wide scope of job opportunities offered by the grain industry and even be introduced to potential new employers. Conversely, industry leaders can begin to identify budding researchers and learn more about their specific study fields and ambitions. With this “match-making event”, we aim to create a platform for industry to identify and hand-pick interns and potential employees in the field of cereal science, technology and research.

‘Inviting academic leaders to this kind of event enables them to interact with industry role-players. They can be informed of the ever-changing needs of the grain industry, define the exact skills required of new market entrants and strengthen ties between academia and the industry. Here industry leaders can learn more about the latest scientific developments that are applicable to the grain value chain – whether it be research into breeding, production, grain storage, milling, baking or other related disciplines,’ she said.The Meet and Greet event was sponsored by SACTA, the Sorghum Trust, the Maize Trust and the Sasol Agriculture Trust.

Opening the third New Voices Symposium the next day, Marianna said that the main purpose of the symposium was to give MSc and PhD students studying cereal science the opportunity to present papers at a national level, offer participants the opportunity to share their research findings, exchange knowledge and experiences and to create a critical mass of young, enthusiastic cereal scientists.

Students from eleven universities were introduced to industry leaders at the Meet and Greet arranged by CTS-SA.

She pointed out that CST-SA was a non-profit association of individuals from both the private and public sectors who were actively involved in the science and technology of cereals with the main focus the development of skills. It was founded 33 years ago and is managed by volunteers from the industry and tertiary education. Membership is open and free of charge to all involved in cereal science and technology.

The third symposium was sponsored by FoodBev SETA, Sensako, Corteva and Agri-Enviro Solutions.