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Food processing program in the works at ECC

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To help fill a growing demand for qualified workers, Erie Community College is preparing to launch a new program in food processing. The industry employs thousands of Western New Yorkers, but there could be a shortage of workers in the near future.With hundreds of food processing companies in the region, including several new yogurt manufacturers, wine makers and craft brewers, there are plenty of opportunities in the industry according to Kris Gorman, Department Chair of Biomanufacturing at ECC.

"In Western New York alone, there's about 18,000 employees and about 670 food processing companies. They're now considering Batavia the 'Silicon Valley of yogurt,'" Gorman says.

In the next few years, Gorman says about 30 percent of the workforce is expected to retire. To help fill the gap, ECC will begin offering a one-year certificate program in food processing in the 2014 spring semester.  

"It's not as scientific as you think it is, but it's more technology based. And if you have an interest in building things or an interest in the sciences, I think it's worth giving it a shot to take a look at," she says.
Gorman says starting salaries range between $26,000 and $32,000. She says it's also a good fit for veterans and high school graduates.

"It's a nice starting salary for somebody who wants to have a career change," she says.

A certificate, Gorman says, can also lead to a job with one of the local pharmaceutical companies.

"People are always going to need medicine. They're always going to need food. And as the population ages there's always going to be the need for medicine," says Gorman.