The Food Processing Education Consortium (FPEC) announced the creation of the Food Industry Technicians Development Program (FIT), what is said to be the first national certification program for service technicians in all segments of the packaging, processing and food and beverage manufacturing industry.
In the United States, there are currently 3.5 million unfilled middle-skill jobs that do not require a 4-year degree and make up the largest part of the labor market in the country. The FIT Program addresses this great need for trained service technicians that food manufacturers can hire.
The FPEC was created in August 2014 by the Foundation of the Food Processing Supplier Association (FSPA), McLean, Va., with the goal of creating, developing and implementing a career path for technicians in all segments of the processing, packaging and food and beverage industries.
“The FPEC has been working very closely with leading food manufacturing companies in the U.S. to carefully develop a program that directly applies to the positions these companies need to hire,” says Scott Scriven, chairman of the Foundation of the Food Processing Suppliers Association (FFPSA) and the Food Processing Educational Consortium, division of the FPSA, the producer of the Process Expo tradeshows, in addition to vice president of the slicer business unit of Provisur Technologies, Chicago. “Technicians that receive the FIT Certification will have incredible job opportunities in the U.S. food manufacturing industry that include high-end salaries and benefits.”
During the past year, the FPEC board has been collaborating with ITT Technical Institute to create a curriculum of core courses that meet the needs of the food and beverage industry. Through a combination of new courses and existing courses that ITT currently offers, students will be able to graduate with the academic knowledge to meet the specific challenges that technicians experience in these industries.
“We are excited to work with FPEC to develop curriculum that will benefit our students and help prepare them for important industry jobs,” says David Catalano, senior vice president of business development at ITT Educational Services, Inc., based in Carmel, Ind. “Given the size of the food and beverage industry and the need for middle-skills workers in the U.S., we are very excited about the opportunity to help these companies grow and to assist our graduates in identifying entry-level jobs.”
According to a recent survey conducted by FPEC, leaders at U.S. food manufacturing companies are facing the following challenges:
· The need for service technicians is a “major problem” for their companies.
· Due to the shrinking population of existing technicians, many of whom are retiring, there is an acute industry need for more technicians who can manage and service increasingly complex equipment and machinery.
· Training of a newly hired technician can take 18 months or longer, driving up the cost of hiring and replacing technicians and undermining the optimal performance of processing equipment.
“The FPEC fully understands the need for middle-skills job in our industry, and we have been impressed with their ability to partner with food processors to strategically build a program that directly addresses our hiring needs,” says Gerald Lessard, vice president and COO of West Liberty Foods, Bolingbrook, Ill. “It has been a genuine pleasure to collaborate with ITT Technical Institute and FPEC, a strategic partner to food processors and packagers, to create an effective curriculum that will immediately help us find skilled professionals for our company.”
“Finding skilled service technicians in our industry has been a challenge, which will likely grow as these professionals retire in the next few years,” adds Chip Burns, director of network optimization at Tyson Foods, Springdale, Ark. “The creation of this program will greatly benefit Tyson and other food processors in the U.S. We are excited about the opportunity to create more jobs in the U.S., which benefits our industry as a whole.”