An estimated 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will open by 2025 as older workers retire. Unless the new generation of workers see food manufacturing as an opportunity and are properly trained for the role, 2 million jobs will remain unfilled.
So what does it take to engage and inspire the emerging workforce? And how can companies show up-and-coming workers there’s a future for them in food?
Opportunities exist in training certificates, work-study programs, and community education centers. Here’s a look at how a few innovative companies are already tackling the imminent skills gap and engaging the workers of tomorrow — today.
Training certifications for new workers
Training certifications help high school graduates get started along a rewarding career path, even if they don’t want to pursue a four-year degree.
Food Industry Technician Development Program
The Food Industry Technician (FIT) certification is a new credential for the industry. In this program, sponsored by the Food Processing Educational Consortium (FPEC) of the Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA), industry stakeholders partner with vocational schools across the United States to develop two-year degrees that cover the mechanical and electrical engineering principles necessary for technicians today, as well as provide practical experience with food processing equipment.
Once students complete the training, FIT works directly with food companies to place these qualified candidates into jobs. This model helps food companies lower their time and money investments in training, while also providing them with access to qualified candidates for technician positions.
Work-study programs for high school students
Work-study programs show students that industrial jobs are a viable option for the future. This kind of early outreach is key to engaging students before they’ve made another career choice.
Frito-Lay Industrial Maintenance Program
One of the companies at the forefront of integrative work-study programs is Frito-Lay. Recently, the snack company developed an Industrial Maintenance Program to introduce high school students to the industrial maintenance field. Students not only learn in the classroom but also receive hands-on training on Frito-Lay equipment.
Greg Roden, senior vice president of Frito-Lay’s North America supply chain, and plant engineer Craig Hoffman worked with Houston County Career Academy and Central Georgia Technical College to bring the work-study program to local students.
As students complete the course, Frito-Lay invites them to interview for an apprentice position. Apprenticeships include on-the-job training and tuition-free coursework at the technical college, so students earn an associate’s degree right out of high school. The first class starts in fall of this year.
Education centers for a developing workforce
The earlier food companies reach out to the new generation of workers, the better. Sponsoring learning centers is a great way for food companies to introduce young students to the available career paths including those in food, farming, and engineering.
Taylor Farms Center for Learning
The Center offers a place outside of school for individuals ages 7-22 to explore what interests them. Particularly, the Taylor Farms Center offers classes that focus on the STEAM fields: science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. This approach exposes students to career paths in farming technology, gardening, and coding classes from a young age.
To engage and inspire the next generation of manufacturing workers, the food industry needs to be proactive. The earlier food companies take these steps, the better they will fare over the next several years as millions of jobs open up thanks to a retiring workforce. By offering innovative learning programs like those above, food companies can help tomorrow’s workers see manufacturing as a possibility for their future.