New Food Industry Technicians Development Program launched
Poultry processors and suppliers were among those involved in creating a new professional certification to train qualified service technicians in the food industry.
Tyson Foods and West Liberty Foods, as part of the Food Processing Education Consortium (FPEC), announced the creation of the Food Industry Technicians Development Program (FIT) on September 16 at Process Expo 2015.
The FIT program is the first national certification program for service technicians in all segments of the packaging, processing and food manufacturing industry. With 3.5 million currently unfilled middle-skill jobs that do not require a four-year degree in the U.S., the FIT program addresses this critical need for trained service technicians in the food manufacturing industry.
“The FPEC has been working very closely with leading food manufacturing companies in the U.S. to carefully develop a program that directly applies and the positions these companies need to hire,” said Scott Scriven, chairman of the Foundation of the Food Processing Suppliers Association, which founded the FPEC in August 2014, and vice president of the Slicer business unit of Provisur Technologies. “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.”
Scott Scriven announced the new Food Industry Technicians Development Program at Process Expo.
The FIT program, a two-year degree program covering electrical engineering principles, blends academic learning, practical experience and additional training to attract and retain new and current technicians. Through a combination of existing and newly developed courses offered by ITT Technical Institute, taught by a faculty made up of industry professionals, students will be able to graduate with the academic knowledge to meet the specific challenges that food industry technicians experience. Candidates who meet certain work experience criteria but have not yet completed the FIT academic coursework may also continue working while earning the industry certification.
“I do believe that what we’ve put together here is going to not only be a job for the graduates but also a career – and I think that’s the critical piece of this whole program we’ve put together. It’s not just the technical skills, but it’s marrying the technical skills with the life skills,” said Gerald Lessard, vice president and chief operating officer of West Liberty Foods.
Gerald Lessard said he has been impressed with the Food Process Educational Consortium's ability to partner with food processors and create a program directly addressing the industry's hiring needs.
The FIT program will cost students nearly $20,000 a year, but the processors and suppliers involved will offer scholarships, paid internships and other opportunities to help offset the expense. Additionally, the first 100 graduates are “guaranteed employment,” according to Scriven.
“Finding skilled service technicians in our industry has been a challenge, which will likely grow as these professionals retire in the next few years,” said Chip Burns, director of Network Optimization at Tyson Foods. “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.”
Initially, the FIT program will launch in the Chicago and Kansas City areas but can expand in the future thanks to ITT’s nearly 130 campuses around the U.S.
Process Expo, the global food equipment and technology show, was held September 15-18 in Chicago.