BEMA has a strong tradition of giving back to the baking industry and investing in its future by promoting initiatives which support the industry. One way the organization does this is by providing relevant and customized education and professional development opportunities through BEMA University, better known as BEMA-U.

“Serving BEMA’s mission, the organization is committed to connecting, educating and providing resources for our members and the industries they serve,” said Emily Bowers, BEMA’s senior director of education and operations. “In founding ideals and active participation, BEMA’s leadership team leads from the helm in their steadfast support of the programs.”

Since its inception, BEMA has refined the program to bring the best education offerings to member companies and the baking industry at large. Courses include sales effectiveness, organizational management, sanitary design, training and transformational leadership.  

BEMA-U began with a leadership-based curriculum and a traditional conference. During the past few years, however, it has enhanced its course offerings and delivery models. Currently, BEMA-U is actively involved in 12 to 15 programs per year, including event-based sessions, speaking engagements, traditional workshops and on-site customized training for individual companies.

“While we still have solid leadership course offerings, we have also added new courses and customize each session to best meet the needs of the audience and bring the training on-site to our member companies,” Ms. Bowers said. “We also incorporate BEMA-U into everything we do. From providing development experience to our own staff and board of directors, we lead by example in the training space.”

The Transformational Leadership workshop is touted as one of the program’s keystone offerings. The course brings together up-and-coming leaders from all segments of the industry to improve depth of leadership and industry knowledge. The course also includes a three-part cohort design with multiple sessions that bring the same group together for growth and development. In this workshop, time between sessions provides opportunities to practice and apply the concepts from class in the everyday work environment.

One of the hottest topics in the industry right now is the workforce gap driven by skilled labor shortages resulting from retirement of baby boomers and an undesirable perception of certain jobs. Ms. Bowers said BEMA-U’s courses can help address the unique intricacies of the generational gap, which are a key component of workforce challenges.  

“The seeds of solution are planted with a better understanding of what’s challenging the current workforce,” she said. “One of the foundational concepts of our training is the skill of adaptability. We explore self-awareness and the ability to relate to and lead others, as well as the many generational factors that are present in the baking industry.”

BEMA-U’s programming has been well received by leaders in the industry. Ms. Bowers has received positive feedback from leadership at member companies such as Corbion, Cain Foods and Ardent Mills praising the effectiveness of the BEMA-U courses.

The relevance and immediate application of the BEMA-U content has been a key to its success, according to Ms. Bowers. The courses provide immediate R.O.I. by providing skills and techniques that can be put to use in real-world situations.

“The curriculum is people-focused, and that is always a recipe for success,” Ms. Bowers said. “It’s a picture-­perfect example of BEMA doing what we do best: connecting and educating.”