Food quality control expert inspecting at meat specimen in the laboratory

The inevitable labor shortage looming over the food industry encompasses more than an absence of workers. There’s a rising absence of skills as well.

Because the 21st-century food industry requires 21st-century skills, employees who don’t retire in the next 10 years will need new training to expand their expertise. And entry-level workers will need to be convinced there’s a bright future in food.

Technology is drastically changing the way all manufacturing happens. To remain competitive in tomorrow’s food processing industry, here are 7 areas where skills matter most:


Advanced mechanical operations are quickly replacing traditional manufacturing across industries. Employees who can see the big picture will be crucial to strong plant operations of the future. Jobs in the new millennium require knowledge of facilities design, lean manufacturing practices, work measurements, and process controls.


Some labor shortages may be filled by automation technology, moving available service and labor technicians into new areas of expertise. With machines taking over more of the production line, humans must know how those machines work and be able to operate and service them safely and efficiently.


The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) now allows manufacturers to collect data on everything. At a basic level, workers need to be able to operate the sensory systems as they communicate along the supply chain. The food industry also needs programmers who can write applications that will manipulate data, assist operations, and interface with consumers online.


Your food brand needs professionals who understand the mechanics of communication–with consumers, with employees, and with supply-chain partners. These crucial professionals need the technical skills to use 21st-century communication tools. They also need strong relational awareness to bridge personal, cultural, and industrial gaps as manufacturing processes become more diverse and global in their scope.


FSMA now requires food manufacturers to devise new ways of testing and keeping food safe, handling recalls efficiently, and preventing large-scale adulteration. Professionals who can execute on these new requirements will have up-to-date skills in biotechnology, supply-chain communication, and safety training.


As population growth and production demand put increased pressure on the environment, food manufacturers need to consider how to make food processing sustainable. Food companies are forming green partnerships and developing new packaging, and exploring cross-industrial options. Help your workforce stay current by seeking out and cultivating employees with skills in sustainable plant design, waste reduction, and product innovation.


Your plant needs professionals who can keep up with guidance and regulations from the FDA on issues of GMOs and labeling, FSMA compliance, and supply chain transparency. You need individuals who understand the issues and who can streamline complex information into practical bites for company-wide consumption.

A high school diploma alone won’t prepare a new generation of workers for food-industry success. An associate-level program focused on technical and human skills can enhance your recruiting and continuing education efforts. It’s also a good idea to look beyond the food industry for both entry-level applicants and professionals in marketing, technology, and sustainability.

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