It’s Time for Training
Volume 138, No. 41, Friday, April 4, 2014
The historically staid dairy industry will remember these years as a time of fundamental change, from a farm bill that ended decades-old policies to dairy exports and new products taking center stage for producers, processors and marketers.
But another trend can lift the trajectory for dairy as sure as the wild ride of global dairy marketing. A renewed emphasis on product research and employee education will provide a solid foundation to exploit today’s exciting opportunities.
And these transforming trends are linked. Government supports and sleepy exports a generation ago meant dairy had less incentive to develop staff or research products beyond storable commodities.
Today’s explosion in worldwide markets and product niches, from differentiated whey powders to finely tuned cheeses and rock star yogurts, has opened markets but left research facilities sprinting to catch up and employee training, well, picking up speed.
University Research Facilities
By now, the exciting story of reinvestment in dairy research facilities is well documented, from the shining new Stocking Hall at Cornell University to the new cheese plant at South Dakota State University, and the industry-driven campaign that will raise a new dairy plant and Center for Dairy Research at Babcock Hall in Madison by 2017.
These new sites join successful dairy programs at Washington State University, Penn State, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, University of Minnesota, Utah State and Oregon State in student education and R&D.
The International Cheese Technology Expo in Milwaukee will highlight these institutions center stage on April 23 and 24 in Milwaukee for the Student Cheese Showcase. Students from several universities have worked with their instructors to produce cheeses for the Showcase. These cheeses will earn a professional evaluation, and will be sampled by Expo attendees.
Today’s explosion in worldwide markets and product niches,...has opened markets but left research facilities sprinting to catch up and employee training, well, picking up speed.
Students will have resumes on hand, and their cheeses will serve as edible resumes for dairy processors seeking new talent.
International Dairy Foods Association, American Dairy Products Institute and even Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association provide great industry training opportunities, but recent re-tooling at major dairy universities offers the promise of a deeper well of hands-on training for industry.
Cornell University has organized its long-standing dairy workshops into four industry certificate tracks: The Science of Yogurt and Fermented Dairy Products; Fluid Milk Processing for Quality & Safety; Membrane Evaporation and Drying Technology and The Science of Cheese Making.
South Dakota State University is beginning a new series of industry symposia in June with “High Quality Dairy Ingredients: Spray Drying, Functionality and Application,” a two-day program co-hosted by NIZO, the Netherlands-based foods research institute.
The Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin hosts dozens of dairy workshops with the food science department at the University of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Master Cheese Maker Program benefits from this menu of workshops, and drives the formation of even more advanced-level workshops at Babcock Hall.
The Center for Dairy Research will showcase two of its strengths at the International Cheese Technology Expo April 24 with seminars on “New Learnings in Cheese Production” and “Growth in Whey and Dairy Ingredients.”
Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and the Center for Dairy Research are currently developing a new certificate program targeted at the greatest need in industry education: core knowledge for dairy plant workers.
A new Certificate in Dairy Processing is aimed at providing a foundation of understanding for dairy plant line workers, with nine sessions teaching the basics: milk composition; milk quality and testing; production of butter and cultured products; production of cheese; ingredients used in dairy processing; cheese converting and packaging; whey processing; food safety systems and basics of sanitation.
These sessions will be offered via live, interactive video lectures at technical college and university sites around Wisconsin. Participants will also enroll in a new, hands-on short course at Babcock Hall focused on equipment function, tear-down and cleaning.
Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association will provide development and ongoing funding to support this new Certificate program and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will provide seed money get this program up and running.
The promise of sustained growth in the US dairy industry will be strengthened by a focus on more education and training opportunities for CEOs, marketers, dairy plant leaders and production workers.
Manufacturers must be willing to support these trainings and send their people. JU
John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 828-4550; Fax him at (608) 828-4551; or e-mail John Umhoefer at