In the last decade alone, Food Engineering editors have written hundreds of articles about one of the major issues facing food and beverage manufacturers: hiring and training employees.

In today’s competitive and fast-paced environment, many hiring managers have been forced to only consider job candidates with extremely unique skill sets to fill open positions. Even though managers receive hundreds of applicants, there is often no prospect with the exact fit.

Whether the challenge of professional level staffing comes from baby boomers retiring, a lack of dedicated food industry/engineering-related college curricula or the preconceived notion held by some young people that food and beverage manufacturing is not a glamorous occupation, the reality is that America is graduating fewer engineering students than other countries. At the same time, a lack of interest in manufacturing careers, unacceptable skill levels and the dearth of available job training programs result in fewer qualified candidates at the operator level.

This is why some savvy food processors are now developing internal training and mentoring programs for engineers and other manufacturing staff. Other progressive corporations are developing employee engagement programs at the plant floor level and taking advantage of online and local community college courses. (Please turn to pages 36-42 in this issue for FE’s cover story on recruiting, training and retaining staff.)

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an industry workgroup meeting to discuss improving plant floor performance via employee engagement. PMMI’s AIOE Workforce Development Group is creating guidelines to help processors develop an engaged workforce culture based on integrity, trust, respect, accountability and teamwork. (For more information about the group’s ongoing work, please see pages 13-14 in this issue.)

Much of the literature I’ve read on this subject tells me it’s time for corporations to end the quest to find perfect job candidates and begin to develop internal staff training, engagement and mentoring programs.

 CEOs and owners, are you listening? It may the only way for your firm to thrive in the coming decade.