Getting ahead of the learning curve

by Lucy Sutton
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Education opportunities abound in the baking industry, but those specific to cookies and crackers can be hard to find. The Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association (BCMA) offers an option for such specialized education: the BCMA Cookie and Cracker Manufacturing Course.

“Our member companies rely on BCMA programs as the essential source for foundational training needed in their plant operations,” said Stacey Sharpless, BCMA president. “By the time an employee graduates from the course, they should have a solid grounding on how to successfully manufacture consistent, high-quality product.”

The self-study correspondence course is designed to give graduates an understanding of the main principles driving the entire manufacturing process, the science and theory underpinning these principles, and how the various parts of the operation interact. “Students are given two years to complete the course that includes multiple-choice tests and work projects, but we find on average that most complete the program within 16 months,” said Kathy Kinter Phelps, BCMA course manager. The content emphasizes practical application of material learned.

“The BCMA Cookie and Cracker Correspondence Course has been a vital tool toward elevating my knowledge in the baking industry,” said Thomas Wojcik, operations supervisor, Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, MI. “It continues to be a tremendous resource for me and has a direct impact on my day-to-day troubleshooting and decision-making skills.”

With 47-year industry veteran Dennis Loalbo, BCMA technical adviser, at the helm, the course offers more guidance than ever, including new orientation procedures. This spring, BCMA will also release new work projects, which will put even more emphasis on students’ applying their newfound knowledge directly in their plants.

“In the last few years, we have seen our recruiting efforts for new managers expand to include a healthy mix of talent from outside the food industry,” said Otis Thaxton, director of manufacturing, Ralcorp Holdings, St. Louis, MO, who works from the Princeton, KY, location. “The course offered by BCMA is great for getting these employees, new to the industry, the technical education and understanding of bakery processes that will be critical to their success.”

Coursework follows the manufacturing process flow, starting with ingredients then covering mixing, forming, baking, cooling and packaging.

“This has been a highlight for my career development thus far,” said Jaclyn Kalva, associate scientist II, Kraft Foods, Inc., Northfield, IL, who works out of East Hanover, NJ. “The books were easy to read, and the chapters build upon each other. The quizzes and labs were extremely valuable.”

Other chapters cover specialty products and industry-specific topics such as sanitation and safety, equipment maintenance, quality systems and environmental issues.

“The course helped develop and strengthen my knowledge of the baking business and has allowed me to make more educated decisions as a result,” said Jim Stoughton, production manager, Richmond Baking, Richmond, IN.

For more information or to obtain enrollment forms, contact BCMA at (443) 545-1645 or visit www.thebcma.org.
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