The event will be held March 20 in Phoenix.

WASHINGTON — The mounting difficulty for bakers in attracting, training and retaining skilled employees will be addressed in a special panel discussion at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Bakers Association.

The A.B.A. and the American Society of Baking are collaborating on a Workforce Gap Project, detailing the extent of the skills gap in the industry and offering solutions to fill the void.

The NextGenBaker panel at the annual meeting, “The future of the baking industry workforce,” will feature preliminary data from this major initiative gathered from bakers by Marjorie Hellmer, president and co-founder of Cypress Research Associates, Kansas City. The March 20 discussion will be part of the all membership meeting at the annual convention, to be held at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

The data have been gathered through an on-line industry survey of leading baking companies. The comprehensive survey looks at efforts companies are making to attract, train and retain skilled production employees. The study delves into different specific challenges baking companies face in this arena while also identifying solutions being applied, especially in the areas of recruitment and skills training. It also seeks to quantify the gap in 2015 and the extent to which this challenge may change over the next 10 years.

Panelists in addition to Ms. Hellmer will include Laurie Graves, director, people systems, The Bama Companies and Don Thriffiley, principal of KAT Management Group. The panel will be moderated by NextGenBaker co-chairs Jesse Amoroso, vice-president of Amoroso’s Baking Co., and Morgan Murphy, sales, Southwest Division, Mother Murphy’s Flavors.

Commenting on the panel, Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A., emphasized the importance to bakers of confronting issues related to finding employees with the skills necessary to sustain and advance efficient operations.

Robb Mackie, A.B.A.
Robb MacKie, president and c.e.o. of the A.B.A.

“This is the No. 1 topic for the baking industry and a conversation in which all attendees should be engaging,” Mr. MacKie said. “The new research the panel will discuss will provide needed insights in the challenges facing the industry and most importantly, solutions the industry can pursue.”

Ms. Graves and Mr. Thriffiley bring considerable human resources experience to the discussion. At Bama, Ms. Graves oversees traditional human resource functions, including employee relations, compliance, organizational development, compensation and benefits. She also has responsibility for the company’s health management system, which is a comprehensive system of resources, including a medical clinic and multiple fitness centers with professional staff.

As the principal of KAT Management, Mr. Thriffiley leads a management consulting company providing solutions in organizational effectiveness with bottom-line results. His 40-year career includes extensive experience in the baking industry, including, most recently, heading human resources/operations at Flowers Foods Inc.

Ms. Hellmer is president and co-founder of Cypress Research, a full service market research firm specializing in research for the U.S. food processing industry. Her clients include suppliers to the food processing industry, professional associations, and media companies.