Cluster organization calls for industry to connect career opportunities from Farm to Makers to Fork

 FaB (Food and Beverage) Wisconsin is advancing its effort to place the food and beverage industry on better footing to attract, develop and retain the workforce and talent needed to grow their businesses and feed the world.

On March 24, FaB will host its Farm to Factory to Fork (FFF) High School Career Discovery at the Milwaukee Public Museum in conjunction with the Global Kitchen Exhibition–presented by the American Museum of Natural History. With the upcoming event, FaB has debuted a talent outreach plan and is developing numerous industry resources to put Wisconsin food and beverage makers on the radar screen of students, teachers and career counselors.

Food, beverage and ingredients makers have traditionally provided their industry training in-house due to company-related processes and product specifications. Currently, the food service side of the industry has accepted recognized base-level technical certification that is offered at 12 state technical colleges; and is increasingly being offered at high school providing students with advance credits to offer a jump start in pursuit of a technical diploma or associate degree.

Wisconsin’s food and beverage industry offers over 18,000 places of employment, with total yearly earnings and jobs ranging from Food Service ($16,033 / 201,722) to Food and Beverage Manufacturing ($59,154 / 67,886) to Food Distribution ($57,632 / 23,586) to Food & Packaging Equipment Manufacturing ($79,380 / 1,949)

“We came to realize that the public is generally unaware of the career and employment opportunities provided by our makers,” said Shelley Jurewicz, Executive Director of FaB Wisconsin. “Given common good food handling practices, it makes sense to connect work experience and technical training across the industry to broaden opportunities for upward mobility, career flexibility, and literally, lifelong employment.”

FaB sees a correlation between teacher and student awareness and the availability of public technical training pathways offering accessible entry to, and advancement in, the industry. Consequently, without a recognized entry-level certificate, they’ve learned it is difficult to position an industry sector for talent attraction and development.

“It’s never been more important to combine recruitment and development strategies,” said Angie Kasten, HR Manager at Angelic Bakehouse, “especially if you want your industry and positions to surface in the new state required Academic Career Planning (APC) process and its planning platforms like and”

At a CEO Briefing held on February 28, FaB announced it would host a Food and Beverage Talent Development Forum this summer to garner industry consensus on an entry-level food maker certificate to help meet the current and long-term demand for production-line talent recently highlighted in FaB’s Talent Needs Assessment Survey conducted by MRA – The Management Association.

“We look to create a program with some similarities to the ServSafe Certificate recognized by the National Restaurant Association, and widely available online, at Goodwill and in many high schools and technical colleges. The certificate would open the door to careers in food manufacturing, while providing our makers a growing number of students stepping into the profession of food and beverage,” said Gina Balke, HR Generalist at Ocean Spray.

“A food maker entry-level certificate would include the basic food safety training now being required of all food, beverage and ingredients manufacturers – regardless of size – by the Food Safety Modernization Act,” added Pat Werner, Director of Food Safety at FaB Wisconsin. FaB envisions a crossrecognition of certificates, where food makers recognize a ServSafe certificate and work experience as relevant, and vice versa.

As FaB builds support between food and beverage companies, educators and trainers, it has begun its outreach to high schools with its upcoming Farm to Factory to Fork Career Discovery. On the March 24 discovery field trip, 175 students from nine high schools will meet 20 food and beverage employers in FaB Employer Galleria, take in the Global Kitchen Exhibition, and participate in a keynote presentation and industry panel discussion designed to offer a more personal introduction to the career opportunities of food and beverage industry. The field trip has attracted schools and companies from Southcentral, Southeast and Northeast Wisconsin, and include:

Food and beverage companies & educators: Baptista’s/Synder’s-Lance, Chr. Hansen, Cousins, Fair Oaks Farms, Gehl Foods, General Mills, Goodwill, Johnsonville Sausage, Kerry Ingredients, Klement’s Sausage, Krones, Lakeside Foods, Maglio Companies, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Mount Mary College, Ocean Spray, Palermo’s Pizza, Saputo, Sargento and Vonco.

High Schools: West Allis Central & Nathan Hale, Fort Atkinson, Plymouth, Sheboygan Falls and Union Grove and Milwaukee’s Bay View, St. Joan Antida and Vincent.

In conjunction with their Career Discovery, FaB is releasing several new outreach resources, including a new career infographic developed with support from ad firm Boelter + Lincoln; and an ad spot on Wisconsin Foodie. With Radio Tower Productions, FaB will offer food and beverage companies a career video production package to expand its Video Collection. FaB is also offering free high school memberships and is coordinating a Classroom Speaker Directory and Internship postings on their job board. “We want to make it as easy as possible for students, teachers, the public, and current talent base to learn about the career opportunities and connect with industry employers across the industry and state,” said Jurewicz.

About FaB Wisconsin

FaB Wisconsin is the state’s cluster organization supporting food and beverage industry growth and awareness. With a mission focused on food and beverage manufacturers, FaB welcomes the full value chain of industry suppliers and technical and service providers, as well as educators, economic development, government and community institutions and organizations. FaB has attracted more than 180 food and beverage member companies, supporting suppliers and service providers and nearly 900 industry leaders and professionals. For more information about FaB Wisconsin, visit FaB was launched with the Milwaukee 7 and Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce in 2012. 

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