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ECC adds Food Processing to its growing list of local industry-focused certificate programs

Monday, November 25, 2013

WILLIAMSVILLE—Over the past three semesters, Erie Community College has relied on its faculty’s industry expertise to train students for one of Western New York’s growing career fields, biomanufacturing. In spring 2014, they plan to expand this focus by offering a one-year certificate in one of the field’s thriving subsections, food processing.

The flourishing local food processing industry—which boasts over 18,000 employees throughout 670 processors—is experiencing a renaissance with wine and yogurt makers, craft brewers and dairy farmers all finding customers on a national scale. But, with 30% of the industry’s workforce slated for retirement within the next 5 years, there will be a massive demand for employees—and a gap in skills for those seeking to fill these jobs. Enter ECC and their Food Processing certificate program, crafted to meet the needs of these growing local companies.

“This program offers many hands on lab experiences and not only trains the student on theory but also in process,” said Kris Gorman, ECC’s Biomanufacturing Department Chair. “Employment in this industry leads to a wonderful and exciting career with plenty of opportunity for advancement. I think these are exciting times for the food industry, and I’m looking forward to a wonderful partnership between ECC and these industry folks.”

But, the continued success and growth of this local industry depends on technical training and education to develop a workforce capable of producing nutritive foods. Western New York companies can no longer afford to solicit or wait for qualified employees to apply. They need to begin cultivating them, and, according to Cornell University Cooperative Extension’s Tristan Zuber, ECC’s certificate track is the first step in that direction.

“(The Food Processing certificate program) is an excellent way to prepare a regional workforce for employment in the food industry in a way a two- or four-year degree program cannot,” said Zuber, a dairy processing extension associate. “Cornell University looks forward to supporting ECC on the successful implementation of this certificate program that will benefit the entire food processing industry in Western New York."

The noted certificate program will look to enlist students—whether high school grads, veterans, or those looking to change careers—interested in food processing careers as a manufacturing technician, quality technician, or laboratory technician, with courses mostly offered in the evening (and at North Campus) focused on quality control; good manufacturing practices; regulatory compliance; food processing; food safety and sanitation; and facility operations in food and beverage. Students will also learn from a veteran and industry-experienced faculty about yogurt making, fermentation of beer and wine, and dairy processing with such summertime staples as ice cream. And, according to Brian Perry of local scooped favorite Perry’s, this education will quickly lead students to local careers.

"There are several food manufacturers in WNY looking to hire for manufacturing positions. The new certificate program at ECC will afford job seekers an opportunity to learn the basic skills needed to land a skilled job, paying a good salary, in a short period of time. What a convenient way to start a new career."

For more information, please contact Kris Gorman at gormank@ecc.edu or visit www.ecc.edu.

Since 1946, Erie Community College has met the needs of a diverse student body while contributing to the economic vitality of Western New York. As a member of the state’s SUNY system, the three-campus college provides flexible, affordable and accessible educational programs in an accommodating academic environment. Equipped with the knowledge of these programs, ECC’s faculty, staff and students strive to enrich their host communities through skill, service and partnership.


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