The 12-week workforce pilot program is scheduled to begin this summer, with 75 students. A third will have never worked in any manufacturing before, a third will have manufacturing experience but are looking to get to the next level, and a third will be working toward the supervisory level.

Reed calls the workforce piece “a massive issue,” because food manufacturing is one of the most regulated industries, especially with the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, and its automation tends to be very specialized.

“Not only do you have to manufacture that food correctly, it has to get into the right package, labeled with the right allergens,” says Reed.

And unlike other manufacturing sectors, food and beverage historically hasn’t done a good job of collaborating with educational institutions or each other on training.

Shelley Jurewicz is executive director of FaB Wisconsin, a food manufacturing association that CFBN has looked to as its studying workforce training programs. Jurewicz says that the National Restaurant Association has a certificate that is ubiquitous, offering a basic level of safety training, “but there’s nothing similar to that in food and beverage manufacturing.”

It also takes work behind the scenes to change perceptions of food manufacturing so people are willing to take the career training, says Jurewicz. FaB “spent a good deal of time” developing a technical one-year diploma in food processing, “with a lot of excitement around it, but it did not attract students,” says Jurewicz. “We had all the employers, the tech college on board. We were calling it a “Food Maker School.”

Now they’ve regrouped and are doing work around perception. “The public in general was either demonizing food manufacturing or they were largely unaware of it,” Jurewicz says. “What it even looked like. What happened behind the scens of the products they saw at their markets and their grocers.”

Instituto del Progreso Latino, which will host the CFPN training, already has well-established programs (and even two charter high schools) with an emphasis on general manufacturing and healthcare. Ricardo Estrada, vice president of education and programs, is optimistic that there will be interest in food manufacturing training here. The neighborhoods the institute primarily serves—Pilsen, Little Village and Back of the Yards—are 70% Latino, with some residents already trained in their home countries in either food manufacturing or machining.

“We have a community that is eager to learn, to make more money, but the challenge is that they don’t have the basic skills necessary to learn the technical skills.”

Instituto’s training is three-pronged: college readiness first, transferable skills like time management and critical thinking second, and then technical skills. The technical skills require working closely with employers to determine “what is their production process, what is their new technology, what are the skills needed to operate the equipment,” says Estrada.

“There are a lot of immigrants in our community [especially those from Central and South America] who are actually coming from their countries with a lot of technical skills,” says Estrada. “They bring their expertise in operating machines and being able to understand processes. In this case we need to concentrate on the language for them to become employable.”