FORT RILEY, KAS. — The Baking Industry Alliance (B.I.A.) and USO Pathfinder on Jan. 31 hosted an Employment Readiness Workshop for more than 50 service members and military spouses at Fort Riley. Joined by 27 representatives of the baking industry, the service members and military spouses participated in mock interviews and learned ways for their skills to transfer to careers in the wholesale baking industry.

The workshop also provided participants an opportunity to get a closer look at the inner workings of a bakery through the help of virtual reality bakery tours.

“What is awesome about the baking industry is that they have a variety of occupations, which is just like the military,” said Crystal Kearns, USO Pathfinder senior operations manager, USO Kansas at Fort Riley. “Specifically, you have logistics, transportation, mechanics, manufacturers, marketing representatives — the military has all of those as well.”

Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association, said the association’s partnership with the USO Pathfinder program was created out of a desire to support transitioning service members and military spouses in a new way.

“The baking industry is like no other, and it is an honor to help our country’s heroes find civilian positions that allow them and their families to succeed in the next stage of their lives,” Mr. MacKie said.

The B.I.A. was established in 2019 as part of the A.B.A.’s Strategic Plan with an intent to drive promotion and growth of the baking industry by harnessing the expertise and resources of organizations representing the industry. The B.I.A. is composed of the volunteer member chairs and professional staff executives of the A.B.A., AIB International, the American Society of Baking, the Allied Trades of the Baking Industry, the Grain Foods Foundation and the North American Millers’ Association. The group has focused its first-year efforts on addressing the issue of workforce retention and recruitment.

“We, as an industry, are brimming with opportunities for talented leaders like the service members and military spouses I met at Fort Riley,” said Christina Donnelly, staff liaison for the B.I.A. “Partnering with the USO allows us to better understand what these individuals are looking for in civilian careers and show them how their impressive skill sets can transfer to successful positions in the baking industry.” 

The next event is set to take place in May at Fort Hood in Texas.

For more information, visit