Bakery workers
The A.B.A. has been emphasizing the baking industry’s workforce issues, including finding, retaining and developing new talent.

ATLANTA — Call it serendipity. The Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association tapped Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association, to deliver a keynote address to its annual technical conference, held May 1-4 in Atlanta, months before the two association discussed the possibility of exploring a merger.

But since the proposed merger announcement was made in March, there was no better speaker to give an overview on the state of the baking industry.

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

“My hope is that you can walk away with an idea of who we are as an organization and the diversity of our leadership,” Mr. MacKie told conference attendees.  “We want to make sure we represent the entire baking industry, not one segment over the other.”

One such example was an update on the emphasis the A.B.A. has been placing on the industry’s workforce issues, including finding, retaining and developing new talent.

In its annual member survey, the A.B.A. polled members in January to assess key issues facing bakers. This year, “workforce issues” was identified as No. 3 on the list, even ahead of keeping up with consumer habits.

“This is something we’ve been working on for a number of years — where we are going to find new talent coming into the industry,” Mr. MacKie said. “I’m excited to see some of the young talent in this room. You are the future of the industry, and we need to multiply these numbers.”

In its annual member survey, 68% of respondents indicated having a strategy for developing up-and-coming leaders, and 10% said they did not know if their company had a development strategy at all. What’s more, 40% said they were not as involved in talent development as they would like to be.

In the new study, “The Workforce Gap in U.S. Commercial Baking: Trends, Challenges and Solutions,” (click here) commissioned by the A.B.A. and the American Society of Baking and released at A.B.A.’s annual convention, held in Phoenix in March, participants were asked how the nature of their company’s production has changed.

“This is what we’re trying to get ahead of — the skills required to run a facility today versus 10 years ago,” Mr. MacKie said. “Those skills are shifting rather rapidly.”

To that effort, the A.B.A. also has energized its NextGen Baker program, formerly known as ELDC, which targets the development of the next generation of leaders for the baking industry. The association has added career development programs and recently announced a front-line leader training program to be held in June.

“This program is designed for the plant supervisor level and aimed at developing those skills because at the front line,” Mr. MacKie said. “It’s like the first line of defense.”