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Case Study - South Central PA Food Manufacturers’ Training Consortium

South Central PA Food Manufacturers’ Training Consortium

With food processing being such an important part of the regional economy in Lancaster County and South Central PA, the industry became one of the high priority industries for investment by the three workforce investment boards in the area because it was large, it was competitive, and it tended to pay an above average salary. The industry was losing some of its most skilled, older workers through retirement while, at the same time, experiencing the need for more skilled workers because of new technology advances.

During 2003, the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board, in cooperation with the Berks County and South Central Workforce Investment Boards, organized a Regional Food Processing Task Group that met three times during the year to address the identified needs. The Group consisted of industry representatives (Turkey Hill, Sauder Eggs, Stauffer Biscuit, Kemp’s, Specialty Bakers); representatives from two manufacturer associations (Berks and South Central); a representative from the Lancaster Chamber; representatives from two economic development companies (York and Lancaster); representatives from two county economic development programs (Berks and Lancaster); representatives of MANTEC; and representatives from Cooperative Extension, PennTap, and the Governor’s Action Team. The group closely followed and reached out to the NutriCorps initiative out of York County, the food-oriented industrial park being developed in Berks County, and the industrial maintenance consortium being led by the Lancaster County Board in the course of its three meetings.

At its last meeting in November, the Group heard a presentation from a representative of the OMAAC Packaging Group and the Louisiana Center for Manufacturing Sciences about packaging and its importance to the food and other industries. The Lancaster Board included this emphasis on packaging in the Centers of Excellence initiative that was announced at the beginning of 2004 as a part of Lancaster Prospers, a project of Lancaster County economic development entities including the Board.

Meetings between food companies and the infrastructure providers from the public sector continued through mid-2004. The three workforce investment boards and the Manufacturers’ Association of South Central PA (MASCPA) pooled funding resources in January 2004 to contract with PennTAP to allow the food specialist associated with that organization to function as the staff person for the consortium. In spring 2004, an invitation was issued through the partnering organization for companies to officially join the Consortium. Eighteen companies responded. Staff from MASCPA and the Manufacturers’ Association of Berks County (MABC) met with each interested party and developed a training plan for each.

As a consortium, the group made a request for WedNet funding for basic and information technology skills in early summer 2004 for which individual companies received funding just under $300,000. Company representatives met together in fall 2004 to begin planning for common training experiences.

Since early 2005, the Food Manufacturers’ Training Consortium has been operating under the joint sponsorship of the Berks County, Lancaster County, and South Central Workforce Investment Boards in partnership with MANTEC, MASCPA, and the Greater Reading Area Chamber of Commerce (which merged with MABC). In 2008, the Manufac-turers’ Association and the Greater Reading Area Chamber chose to leave the stakeholder group to avoid conflicts of interest in their role as training vendors for the Consortium.

More than 40 companies are now members of the Consortium including Swiss Premium, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Berks Packaging, Turkey Hill, Knause Foods, Sweet Streets, Godiva, Quaker Maid, and others. Robert Pozesky, the Project Manager, is an industrial engineer and a private consultant who works for the Consortium for roughly 20% of his time.

In the more than four years since the beginning of incumbent worker training, the Consortium has offered thousands of hours of training every year to nearly 2,000 unduplicated individuals from 50+ companies. Training has focused heavily on maintenance, supervisory training, food safety, operations improvement, worker safety and plant systems. In addition, two technology transfer events in RFID applications and plant energy efficiency were offered in the last several years.

Activities in the Consortium were supported by a High Growth Job Training Grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and an Incumbent Worker Training Grant from the PA Workforce Investment Board in 2005-2006. Both grants, totaling some $600,000+, have been fully expended. A project with Hershey Foods around advanced industrial maintenance or mechatronics was also a part of the US DOL project.

From 2007-2009, expanding the career path options in packaging and food processing has been an important goal of a federal Regional Innovation Grant focused on packaging which has been awarded to the Berks, Lancaster, and South Central Workforce Investment Areas. The project has had four parts: an analysis of the supply chains of consumer products manufacturers in south central PA; continued development of career paths in industrial maintenance; an assessment of the use of radio frequency identification among area packagers; and an evaluation of the potential of the machine tool industry to make and/or integrate packaging machinery.

This industry partnership has been the incubator for the Industrial Maintenance Training Center of PA; Industry Partnerships in agriculture, plastics, and mechatronics; and Centers of Excellence in Production Agriculture and Packaging Operations. It is now affiliated with the Lancaster County Center of Manufacturing Excellence.

Links:
Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board
PA CareerLink of Lancaster County
Center of Excellence in Production Agriculture
Center of Excellence in Packaging Operations
Industrial Maintenance Training Center of PA
Center for Manufacturing Excellence

 

Compiled by Scott Sheely, Lancaster County WIB for NAWB, March 2010