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Meet Richard, winner of FDF’s Apprentice of the Year


We spoke to Richard Laursen, winner of the 2022 Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Apprentice of the Year award, to find out more about his award-winning experience and achievements as an R&D apprentice at our Colworth site.

Richard holding FDF award trophy

First, can you tell us about your role at Unilever?

I work as a materials expert in R&D for ice cream, working with suppliers to ensure our ingredients meet the required specifications for our products whilst advising Product Developers on what ingredients to use to make our ice cream tasty and delicious.

What does it mean to you to win FDF Apprentice of the Year?

To me, the award was a recognition that my work had a positive impact within the wider food industry, which I am really proud to be recognised for, particularly when up against a range of other companies.

I was a finalist in 2021, so it was great to build on my work and collect more impactful evidence to win the award in 2022!

Richard with other nominees

What key achievements led to your nomination?

Over the last year I have really stepped up by seeking development opportunities, volunteering to take on new tasks, and have started leading projects and looking after global ingredient portfolios.

Out of the lab, I also enjoy being an ambassador for apprenticeships, offering my help at school talks and events where I have talked about my experience and given advice and information to encourage people to take part in apprenticeship programmes.

Richard with award

What is a typical day for you as an apprentice?

No day is ever the same! But all are very interesting. For example, a day during my rotation in Science & Technology may start with me arriving in Colworth around 8:30am and going through my emails. Then, looking at particle sizes and rheology (studying the flow properties of liquids) of chocolate in the lab, before grabbing a tasty lunch from the canteen!

I may then have a few meetings, before chomping on an ice cream for a quick break! I then finish up the day by writing my findings into a report, and saying bye to my collegues before another day begins.

What appealed to you about your Unilever apprenticeship programme?

I’ve always had an incredibly strong interest in food, as we need it to both survive and for pleasure. I found it interesting that you will feel good eating certain foods, and that everyone will always have different opinions on it.

I chose Unilever’s apprenticeship programme specifically as the overall sustainability mission and strategy really aligned with my views. Being so interested and personally aligned with the company’s purpose has really helped me to produce work that is fit for the company and progresses my development.

I am very proud that Richard won Apprentice of the Year at the FDF awards. This is a fantastic achievement for Richard and Unilever and highlights his excellent work within Ice Cream. I look forward to seeing Richard continue to excel in his apprenticeship and future career!

Sophie Downes, Richard’s line manager

What’s your favourite thing about being an apprentice?

Definitely the support available to me from the company and the people I work with. There’s a great community and range of employees to speak to and share knowledge with.

We have a really inclusive culture, where we will organise socials, and you can really get talking to anyone! It makes coming to work even more enjoyable. I also cannot forget about all the ice cream I get to eat too…

What advice would you give to people thinking about applying to an apprentice scheme at Unilever?

  1. Research the company and understand if their values align with yours. This will enhance the work you will produce.
  2. Think about what you want to gain and achieve by the end of your apprenticeship. What skills would you like to achieve? If you know what you want to accomplish, share this with your team and they can factor these into each rotation so you can get the most out of this role.
  3. Be yourself. As cliché as it sounds, bringing your authentic self to work will help you get the most out of the experience.

And finally, what's your favourite Unilever product?

It would have to be an ice cream! When I first joined it would’ve been, controversially, Marmite, but now I love a mint Magnum. It’s incredibly refreshing, along with a Solero in the summer.

Richard standing with award nominees and award members
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