KANSAS CITY — The Bakery National Education Foundation (BNEF) has launched a fundraising campaign aimed at raising $200,000 for Kansas State University’s (K-State) Bakers Science and Management (BSM) program.
The funds will be used to support the university’s BNEF instructor Aaron Clanton, who develops and constructs the BSM curriculum. A portion of the funds will also be used to expand enrollment and bolster the program’s infrastructure. With the construction of a new building on K-State’s campus and a need for more students, the BNEF is spearheading outreach efforts via career presentations by K-State alumni to encourage high school students to pursue a career in baking.
“We understand the pressing need to cultivate the next generation of talent,” said Dave Krishock, BNEF board chair. “The BSM program at K-State has long been renowned for its comprehensive education program and training opportunities. Through our collective efforts and the generosity of our donors, we plan to help high school students, their parents and educational advisors discover the baking industry and realize the potential for careers that support interests in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as passion to feed the world."
Through the support of leading baking companies, the BNEF, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, provides scholarships, recruitment assistance and financial support to K-State’s BSM program.
“K-State is the only university in the country that offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in bakery science,” Mr. Krishock noted. “That is a uniqueness that should be broadcast nationwide through new and targeted recruiting efforts.”
K-State’s BSM program is especially critical today as the industry grapples with widespread workforce shortages. As the current workforce retires, many qualified bakery positions across the country have been left unfilled, observed E.B. Russell, BNEF board member.
“Bakeries are impacted by not being able to run at full capacity due to limited personnel,” she said. “This reduces order fulfillment, doesn't allow for a consistent production schedule and decreases production run efficiencies. They are impacted by having people wear several ‘hats’ and covering many different facets of the industry.”
The BSM program provides students a leg up for many of these open positions, she continued.
“The internships students find and participate in is one area that allows them to gain significant real-world experience in a timely fashion,” she said. “There are positions across the baking industry in production, quality, sales, research and development, innovation, regulatory, the list is endless.”
Building awareness for the wholesale baking industry will be critical in overcoming these workforce challenges going forward, added John Hinds, BNEF board member.
“We need to make sure people know we exist,” he said. “Commercial baking is an industry that can seem almost invisible to the greater part of the world — that is, they are very aware of our wonderful baked goods, but not knowledgeable of our wonderful careers.”
Mr. Hinds noted that connecting with culinary schools, trade schools and community colleges can provide a steady influx of skilled job seekers. Promoting career opportunities via social media is necessary as well.
“Using social platforms not just for advertising new products, brands or innovations, but the people and careers behind them,” he said. “What we need is action.”