The Food Processing Education Consortium (FPEC) announced the creation of the Food Industry Technicians Development Program (FIT), the first national certification program for service technicians in the packaging, processing and food and beverage manufacturing industries.
Created last year by the Foundation of the Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA), FPEC was established with the goal of developing and implementing a career path for technicians. According to FPEC, the US currently has 3.5 million unfilled middle-skill jobs that do not require a four-year degree. The new FIT program addresses the food industry’s need for hirable, trained technicians.
“FPEC has been working very closely with leading US food manufacturing companies to develop a program that directly applies to the positions these companies need to fill,” says Scott Scriven, chairman of FPSA and FPEC. “Technicians who receive FIT certification will have incredible job opportunities in the US food manufacturing industry that include high-end salaries and benefits.”
The FPEC board has collaborated with ITT Technical Institute throughout the past year to create a curriculum of new and existing ITT courses that will provide a pool of skilled graduates.
“We are excited to work with FPEC to develop a 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. “Given the size of the food and beverage industry, and the need for middle-skills workers in the US, 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 FPEC survey, leaders at US food manufacturing companies identified the following challenges:
-Food manufacturing executives rank the need for service technicians as a “major problem” for their companies.
-Due to the shrinking pool of existing technicians, many of whom are retiring, there is an acute industry need for technicians who can manage and service increasingly complex equipment and machinery.
-Training 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.
“FPEC fully understands the need for middle-skills job in our industry, and we have been impressed with the consortium’s 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. “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.”