JumPPstart Presenters

L. to r.: Brian Ormanic fronm ARPAC; Matt Jones from Dorner Corp., Jacob Ertel from Arrowhead High School, and Mike Brancato of KHS USA. Photo provided by PMMI. 

Yesterday I came across an item in the New York Times about the White House’s pastry chef hanging up his whisk. In my earlier days, I covered the foodservice bakery beat, so I have a special place in my heart for any kind of stories about dessert divas.

And, as my tenure here at Candy Industry Magazine has revealed, many of the world’s best chocolatiers have had their start as pastry chefs. There’s something about being challenged to cap off a meal with a creative piece de resistance that brings out the best in these culinary craftsmen. 

Editor-in-chief Bernie Pacyniak
Bernie Pacyniak

In any case, Bill Yosses is leaving the White House in June to — aside from spending more time with his husband in New York — “put together ‘a group and foundation of like-minded people’ for promoting delicious food as healthy food.” Call it food literacy.

New York Times writer Marian Burros then quotes Yosses as saying, “There’s much talk about STEM in schools — science, technology, engineering and math.” The pastry chef then goes on to say the acronym should read STEAM, with the A added for arts, as in culinary arts.

“Food knowledge should be part of a complete curriculum,” he says. “We used to learn about food as a part of everyday growing up, but I think we’ve lost that. I think it has a place in schools.”

Kudos to Yosses. It’s something I’ve touched on in this newsletter and in Candy Industry Magazine several times over the years. Mind you, however, that’s not to take anything away from STEM, which conveniently capsulizes the need for more science, technology, engineering and math education in primary and secondary schools — even for those in the confectionery industry.

That need was personally driven home yesterday when I attended the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI)’s annual press event in Rosemont, Ill.

Besides updating the B-to-B editors about the association’s recent moves — which included the addition of Pharma EXPO to PACK EXPO this November, the signing of Jay Leno as the keynote speaker/talent for the show, the addition of a Baking/Snack Break Lounge under the auspices of the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers Association as well as a slew of other announcements —the program focused on the challenges facing the manufacturing sector, one of which involves finding skilled personnel.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, there are 600,000 manufacturing jobs unfilled because companies can’t find workers skilled enough to meet the requirements. That scarcity was dramatically driven home by Mike Brancato, president of Waukesha, Wis.-based KHS USA.

His company is looking for field service technicians, a job that at the senior level averages about $125,000. The need is so great that the company is willing to fund training for interested candidates.

 As he pointed out, “Manufacturing is what built America, and it’s what will build it in the future. If we don’t invest [in educating the workforce], we’ll fail.”

There’s no doubt that our educational focus has swung away from STEM. No judgment here, since the problems of inner city schools, which encompass a full range of issues, often preclude anything but getting the three R’s across successfully.

But that shouldn’t stop us from trying. And it was uplifting to hear that PMMI devoted its press event to efforts by that association to stimulate STEM from kindergarten on up. Although PMMI has a broad range of educational programs for students and professionals, JumPPstart is a grass-roots initiative started by the association that was created last year to stimulate member companies to network with students.

That networking encompasses all kinds of “touches,” from factory tours to company representatives speaking at schools, from judging science fairs to funding school projects. Brian Ormanic of ARPAC and Matt Jones of Dorner Manufacturing Co.  were two of the early volunteers in embracing this effort. I recommend going to the association’s website (www.pmmi.org/education) and clicking on the School Outreach and then JumPPstart tabs. There you’ll see individual videos by Ormanic and Jones discussing their reasons for supporting this outreach program. Kudos to both and to Maria Ferrante, v.p. – education & workforce development at PMMI, for their efforts.

And let’s see if we can add an A to STEM as Yosses suggests, so we ensure manufacturing and technological prowess in the future dovetail with a more food savvy populace.