PROCESS EXPO: Fit for employment

by Joel Crews
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The FIT program aims to train the next generation of food industry technicians.
The FIT program aims to train the next generation of food industry technicians.

CHICAGO – The second day of the 2015 Process Expo kicked off with the Food Processing Education Consortium (FPEC) announcing the creation of an education program to certify current and prospective technicians in the food and beverage processing industry. The two-year, Food Industry Technician Development Program (FIT) will provide participants with the technical skills needed to help fill an estimated 3.5 million “middle-skill jobs” that don’t require a four-year degree, according to officials with the FPEC. The Food Processing Supplier Association Foundation created the consortium in 2014 and the new program provides job opportunities in the supplier industry as well as in the processing industry.

The program will initially be offered through ITT Technical Institute, at its campuses in Kansas City and Chicago. The curriculum for the FIT program will focus on electrical engineering principles not only for future technicians but also for current techs interested in pursuing career growth.

“For many years, both the processors and equipment manufacturers have been challenged to find and employ qualified individuals to work as technicians in our plants,” said Scott Scriven, chairman of the Foundation of the Food Processing Suppliers Association and the FPEC. In developing the program, the goals of the consortium included: identifying recruiting qualified replacements to fill the jobs vacated by retiring veteran technicians; training current and future technicians to engineer and maintain the increasingly complex equipment used by food and beverage processors; creating a nationally coordinated program to prepare future technicians for jobs; and ensuring technicians are trained to perform at a high level in processing plants.

“We intend to educate, train and provide competent and certified individuals to fill these important positions in our businesses,” said Scriven, adding that the program was developed with the input of food and beverage processors and their suppliers. While tuition for the program is approximately $20,000, Scriven pointed out that the 14 processors and supplier companies supporting the certification process are offering scholarships and paid internships to financially assist participants. He went on to say the first 100 graduates of the program are being guaranteed employment in the industry.

Information about the program is available at www.foodindustrytechnician.com.

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