Before 2020, the baking industry was already struggling with a workforce gap as older veteran bakers retired and there was a shortage of workers to take their place. The COVID-19 pandemic only made this problem worse. All industries struggled as the United States’ economy saw what some called The Great Resignation and older employees began retiring early for a multitude of reasons. Members of the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) committee noted that this has made the need for training and education even greater since the 2019 show.

“The need for training has always been there on the ingredient side, but with the Great Resignation and people retiring early because of the pandemic and the pace, you’re going to see a greater need for ingredient companies to teach bakers how to be bakers,” said Mark Hotze, IBIE committee member and president of Corbion. “The experienced folks are retiring, and the new generation coming in doesn’t have that inherent knowledge, and this is only going to get exacerbated.”

IBIE 2022 Chairman Dennis Gunnell, president of Formost Fuji, noticed that while equipment suppliers have also always offered training services to baking companies, more bakers are taking Formost Fuji up on the offer. 

“In the past, we would install a piece of machinery, and they would say ‘Turn it on and get going,’ and we couldn’t force them to get the training,” he said. “Now, there’s been a shift, and people are focused on ‘What’s the right way to do this?’ They want to know should we start in the classroom and learn the theory, or do we just step onto the production room floor and go through it. The acceptance of training is greater. It’s still not where it should be, but it’s much better than it was six years ago.”

And the pandemic forced equipment suppliers to incorporate virtual technologies to train remotely, though DJ LeCrone, IBIE committee member and chief executive officer of LeMatic, Inc., emphasized it also revealed the value of in-person training. 

“[Training has] always been critical,” he said. “The better the personnel are trained, the better off everyone is. It’s where we had been until we weren’t allowed to go into bakeries anymore because of the pandemic. It’s really accentuated the im-portance of the training that we can’t do remotely, that we had to do in person, and that has been a big focus, and I think you’ll see a lot of it at IBIE. You’ll see new technologies with virtual service guys being able to come in and actually make a difference.”

While equipment and ingredient suppliers continue to step up to provide baking companies the education and training their employees need to run production, Joe Turano, past IBIE chairman and president of Turano Baking Co., Berwyn, Ill., pointed out that there is opportunity for even more educational opportunities. 

“Our industry needs better training opportunities from our associations,” he said. “We’re discussing this all the time within the associations: How can we provide an annual forum to send our people to two- to three-day training sessions, whether it’s in a classroom or hands-on in a bakery environment. Most companies are doing it on their own with their own training systems in their bakeries or in a classroom environment. We have spent time developing our own custom training because we need to. And as Mark said, with newer people coming into the industry who may not have been trained on bakery before, it’s even more important to prioritize training because of the lack of core knowledge that our people used to have.”

The committee has tried to fill that gap with IBIEducate, a full day dedicated completely to education before the Expo floor opens. IBIEducate occurs Saturday, Sept. 17. It will also run concurrently with the remainder of the show, which takes place Sept. 17-21 in Las Vegas. 

“We had this in 2019, and it was very successful,” said Jorge Zarate, IBIE vice chairman and senior vice president of global operations and engineering, Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City. “This is something the industry expects from IBIE, and not just the bakers but the OEMs and the industry. We’ve had two years where we stopped in-person training. Our vendors were very adaptive in providing remote training, but we’re expecting suppliers to come back to the bakeries not just to help commission the equipment, but also train our people in the processes. Same with ingredient suppliers.”

Mr. Turano agreed, saying “I think the IBIEducate portion of IBIE is an increasingly popular tool that we can hopefully make an annual event in some form.”

With the IBIEducate Super Pass, show attendees can go to any $30 session Saturday, Sept. 17, through Tuesday, Sept. 21. The pass is $175 and does not include workshops, specialty courses and partner co-located events. The Super Pass must be purchased separately from the IBIE Expo Hall Pass.