One of the concerns I hear often from food and beverage manufacturers is the difficultly of finding and retaining skilled employees. It is even harder to find workers who are passionate about building a career in the industry.
There are some sectors – like meat processing – which are more greatly affected by this challenge, but it is an issue touching a wide range of food businesses, from bakeries to ingredient companies. On a company basis this means high turnover and less productivity, while on a national scale it translates into less competitiveness for Canadian goods on the world market.
That could change with the help of the Raising the Standards project, an initiative of the Food Processing Human Resources Council (FPHRC) that is the first of its kind in Canada. Part of a larger human resources strategy, the three-year project will build the first national competency library of occupational standards for jobs within the food and beverage industry in the areas of business, finance and administration; technical/machine operation; facility operations and maintenance; quality control; production; logistics; and research and development.
The FPHRC has already had significant buy-in from the industry. Through focus groups and webinars the council is engaging with stakeholders to identify and benchmark the detailed technical and behavioural skill sets required for hundreds of jobs in the food processing industry. The council will also document the essential skills, like writing and communications, needed for career advancement.
The resulting online database will help manufacturers hire new recruits, produce in-house training programs, and develop performance assessment tools. Educators will gain occupational standards to develop training and certification programs. By raising the level of professionalism in the food industry, more young workers will also hopefully be attracted to the field.
While the project is scheduled for completion next summer, this month the council will launch another program that may lessen the labour pains for employers. The Pre-Arrival Food Safety Management Training Program will provide online and self-paced, accredited training of new immigrants from six different countries for careers in the Canadian food processing industry, meaning they will arrive with the skills and certifications needed to begin work. The initiative runs until March 2017.
For more information on either program, contact the council at fphrc.ca