AIB International pushes people beyond their own and their manager's assessments of proficiency.

Pushing the industry to higher levels of proficiency

At AIB International, it’s not just about teaching, it’s about making sure course participants learn the skills necessary to do their jobs once they leave the AIB campus and return to their companies.

Brian Strouts, vice-president of baking and food technical services, believes AIB International has made great strides in this area.

“We’ve really started to focus on the customer feedback we receive and making sure that what we changed was related to job performance once (the participants) returned home,” Mr. Strouts said. “That’s been a stronger and stronger message from our education advisory committee.”

What AIB International has done, he said, is add a number of steps that managers and course participants can use to assess their performance. For its past three Baking Science and Technology classes, AIB International has surveyed managers about the professionals they sent for instruction right as they come to BS&T, and 45 days after completing the course.

“We’re not quite sure that (45 days) is the right interval,” he said. “We don’t want to get too far out otherwise it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind and we have trouble getting feedback. We certainly don’t want to do any faster than that because it takes a certain amount of time to get back in the routine of the job. The important thing is we’re looking at them before and after and getting that feedback.”

In addition, AIB International is asking participants to rate their own skills, Mr. Strouts said.

“We’re asking the participants ‘How do you see your technical abilities improving as we go along?’” he said. “We’ve also added some exercises that really force them to demonstrate that they’re absorbing the concepts. A lot of what we do is team-based, but we have a couple of additional exercises during which our instructors rate them one-on-one.”

The result of the new program, Mr. Strouts said, is that AIB International is pushing people beyond their own and their manager’s assessments of proficiency.

Brian Strouts, vice-president of baking and food technical service, believes AIB International has made great strides in educating course participants to learn the skills necessary to do their jobs once they leave the AIB campus.

Mr. Strouts said it’s also important for AIB International to maintain a world view on the baking industry, particularly with so many clients located around the world.

“We realize that this could help drive some opportunities when we start looking at distance learning,” he said. “We have some participants coming from a distance and that supports moving more and more of our programs to include more of a distance learning aspect. That is one of the big initiatives we’re working on this year.”

Another big initiative is the rebuild of the cereal science lab, which will provide brand new facilities and flexible teaching space.

“I think it’s going to be a much better learning environment, and we’re very excited about what that piece will do,” Mr. Strouts said. “The other side of the coin is we’re redoing the analytic labs on the other side of the building, which will support both the lab testing we do, but also product development and new product testing. We’re very excited about what that means for baking.”

Mr. Strouts said AIB International is working hard to stay out ahead of where the industry is going.

“We have the latest and greatest methods here, when it doesn’t quite look like it to the eye,” he said.

Also in late 2013/early 2014, Mr. Strouts’ group zeroed in on coming up with a kill step validation for the industry. Now, the manuscript is close to getting published and is going through the final in-house review.

“We have some outside committee members who are reviewing it because we want to ensure that it’s aligned with industry needs,” he said. “That’s the whole motivation — getting some good basic science out there that will support the industry on how do they validate the baking process in general, but any heat treatment process to meet FSMA regulations. I think the thing that’s really interesting in doing the study is how little information was really out there. We built a lot of really fundamental data to support what we were trying to do with this study.

“For me this has been a really interesting study from that particular standpoint. It’s showing exactly what we thought it was going to, that anything you would be worried about is easily killed by the heat step we’re validating in this particular study. The outcomes haven’t surprised us at all, but now it’s proving it in an industrial setting that we’re working on, trying to build enough of a database to use it as a reference.”

In the end, everything AIB International is doing is with an eye toward getting much more personal than it has in the past, Mr. Strouts said.

“It’s a really good thing that we’re going out and taking a much more personal approach to try and figure out what they need and how what we do fills that need,” he said. “We’re uniquely positioned to help a lot of people out there if we can just make that connection. I’ve certainly seen that in the past six months from the amount of private training we’re doing. It’s always been there, but it seems like that’s a more and more important place that people want to be.”