By Moira Stalker, National Co-ordinator for the Scottish Food and Drink Federation's Schools Programme.

Did you know that food and drink is the largest manufacturing sector in Scotland and in the UK and that it is going to get a whole lot bigger? Across the UK, we are bigger than Aerospace and Automotive. By 2020, the sector will need over 170,000 new employees to meet new demand and replace retiring workers.

Scottish manufacturers employ around 50,000 people and generate sales of over £9 billion. The industry is made up of lots of different companies, some of which you will be very familiar with and probably consume their products every day without thinking about where they come from. We have iconic brands like Deans of Huntly with their much loved shortbread; Macsween of Edinburgh who make their world renowned haggis; Nairn's and their famous oatcakes; and the ever popular Tunnock's with their famous Teacakes and Caramel Wafers. Some large global brands also have a base here like McCain Foods; Quaker Oats; United Biscuits and Warburton's. A large part of our industry's success is due to the enthusiastic and talented individuals that make up the workforce in companies large and small.

To maintain this success, the food and drink industry is going to need a lot more people to help to innovate and develop new products to meet the needs of our customers (people like you!) and make changes to existing products to make them healthier, tastier and more exciting. To do this we need new talent that understands how products are developed and then what happens to them as they are produced in food manufacturing plants. Believe it or not, you need to know all about science to understand what happens to the products as they are being made. This allows us to make sure that the end product looks good, tastes fantastic and is safe to eat. Technology and maths are really useful subjects as you may have to make large numbers of products and you will need to work out quantities and how to scale up production. To help our industry to develop new products and to support innovation, engineers are also really important. This is because a lot of production relies on very sophisticated machines and we need excellent engineers to develop, maintain and adapt these expensive bits of equipment.

Career opportunities are many and very varied. Opportunities also exist in areas like marketing, IT, sales, distribution and logistics, and finance, to name a few. Many careers in food and drink offer the chance to travel and work abroad. Starting salaries are competitive and career progression can be very rapid due to demand.

There are different routes into the many interesting jobs in food and drink including direct entry from school - many employers will train you if you show initiative and help you develop a rewarding career. In addition to a route in via Modern Apprenticeships in areas such as Food Manufacture, colleges and universities offer a range of courses including BSc Hons in Applied Science.

Visit or follow @Scottish_FDF for more information.

To read more about careers in the food and drink industry, read our supplement here.