Industry addressing concerns over aging workforce
Amid a major domestic energy exploration boom, news accounts have discussed broad industry concerns over an aging workforce and challenges of finding enough qualified employees, even at a time of elevated unemployment. The topic is a familiar one in grain-based foods where many engineers and other skilled employees are poised to retire in coming years.
Baking does have a few positive signs, though, particularly from the Baking Science program at Kansas State University. After attending the recent inaugural advisory committee meeting of the Department of Grain Science and Industry (which includes the baking program), Kent Van Amburg, executive director of the American Society of Baking, highlighted a number of successes in the K.S.U. baking program.
Enrollment in 2011 was 67, up from 33 in 2007. There were 11 graduates in 2011, a number inadequate to the industry’s needs but one that appears to be ramping upward. Mr. Van Amburg said all 2011 graduates secured jobs, drawing an average starting salary of $53,000, the highest of any K.S.U. program.
The creation of the advisory committee and the K.S.U. figures suggest an appreciation within the industry of the seriousness of the issue and the potential for involvement, including scholarships, to facilitate meaningful progress toward solving a fundamentally important matter.