The Cookie & Cracker Academy, A.B.A. and B.&C.M.A.
The Cookie and Cracker Academy has been fully revamped with feedback from both organizations to address specific issues facing the baking industry today.

WASHINGTON — It’s been a busy year for the American Bakers Association. Not only did it join forces with the Biscuit and Cracker Manufacturers’ Association in April, but also recently announced the launch of the Cookie and Cracker Academy (C.C.A.). Formerly B.&C.M.A. University, the C.C.A. has been fully revamped with feedback from both organizations to address specific issues facing the baking industry today.

When the A.B.A. and the B.&C.M.A. first started talking about merging, Robb MacKie, president of the A.B.A., asked for a “wish list” of things that members would like to see addressed in future training programs.

“As you can imagine, there was a pretty extensive list,” Mr. MacKie said. “The good news is, when we did the unveil of the rebrand, there were already enhancements built into the coursework that we’re really excited about.”

Cookie & Cracker Academy entry level course

There are three tiers of training within the courses offered by the C.C.A. The first level is the Entry Level Training Program. Offered in both English and Spanish, this web-based course provides bakery workers with little or no experience a comprehensive look at basics of working in a bakery environment. During the course, students will be guided through the fundamentals of ingredients, mixing, forming and baking.

“The entry-level course is for those just coming into the industry, but we’ve also found that it’s a great course for those who need a refresher,” said David Van Laar, senior adviser to the president and c.e.o., B.&C.M.A. transition and development. “I did some courses two weeks ago with employees from a major food company. Some had been there for 18 years and were surprised to learn some of the basics that had never been explained to them before.”

Mr. MacKie added, “We’re looking to build out strong, practical skill-sets with product- and equipment-specific training, and to really equip these folks to identify potential problems early. That has huge cost savings for the industry.”

Cookie & Cracker Academy manufacturing course

For industry veterans looking to master their craft, the C.C.A.’s Correspondence Course is also available.

“The Correspondence Course takes the students through the science of baking cookies and crackers, and also introduces them to the art involved in cookie and cracker manufacturing,” Mr. Van Laar said. “We allow the students two years to take the course. Most students finish somewhere under 18 months.”

As part of the curriculum, students learn how the various parts of the full production process interact. Lessons are reinforced by a series of tests and work projects, some of which can be completed offsite. The coursework covers everything from the building blocks of flour, sweeteners and fats, all the way to the final product packaging and sanitation issues.

Cookie & Cracker Academy intermediate course

The A.B.A. also is in the process of rounding out the C.C.A.’s offering of intermediate-level courses that are more process- and operator-specific. In these courses, students can learn a particular skill to let them perform a specialized task on the plant floor, coming through the training as certified operators. There are no prerequisites required to take the C.C.A. courses other than being an A.B.A. member.

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

“We’re also working with supervisors and plant managers to evaluate that training and its effectiveness,” Mr. MacKie said. “It’s not about checking the box, we want to see demonstrated results on the plant floor.”

So far, the training offered by the C.C.A. has received overwhelmingly positive anecdotal feedback. Mr. Van Laar expressed his excitement at being able to bring this revamped training to a larger audience through its founding.

David Van Laar, B.&C.M.A.
Dave Van Laar, senior adviser to the president and c.e.o., B.&C.M.A. transition and development

“Overall, it is good for the industry because it is going to develop more knowledgeable employees that are likely to make less errors and be more efficient,” Mr. Van Laar said. “It has reduced mistakes considerably in specific positions as we’ve focused on them.”

Mr. MacKie added, “I’m excited about bringing the awareness of those programs to a broader swath of the industry. We’ve been on the road for the past four months off and on, and every single group that we meet with, topic one has been workforce issues, training, re-training, retention and recruitment. Either by luck or opportunity, we’re well-positioned with a great product to meet a very important need for the industry.”

Click here for more information about taking a course through the C.C.A.