What does it take to produce 345,000 pastries every day? According to Svenhard’s Swedish Bakery, it takes about 6,400 pounds of flour and 4,100 pounds of fruit fillings—not to mention 250 well-trained employees and a facility that operates 24 hours a day. After 100 years in the bakery business making horns, cinnamon rolls, claws, and curls, Svenhard’s has the process down to a science.
After a 2015 move from Oakland, where it had operated for more than 50 years, to Exeter (population 10,334) in Tulare County, the company faced staffing challenges that threatened to disrupt its fine-tuned production processes; most of Svenhard’s long-term employees did not make the transition with the company to the Central Valley. That meant a lot of experience and knowledge was left behind. To get production up and running, new people had to be hired, but the majority of the new employees had no food-industry experience. Svenhard’s realized its new people faced a steep learning curve not only in production but also in the important area of food safety practices and compliance with federal regulations.
To learn more about how the company dealt with the challenges of getting a large number of new employees up-to-speed on production processes and trained in critical food safety practices, UpSkill California spoke with Dee Secara, Director of QA, Safety, and Human Resources for Svenhard’s.
Q: Svenhard’s faced some serious staffing issues after the move from Oakland to Exeter. How did the company go about finding the employee training it needed?
Dee Secara: I joined Svenhard’s after the company moved to Exeter. Before I started, they were in the process of looking for a vendor that could provide supervisory skills training. During that search, some of our executives spoke with representatives from College of the Sequoias’ (COS) Training Resource Center, which is located nearby in the city of Tulare. Not only did COS have the supervisory skills and food safety training programs we needed, they also introduced us to the Employment Training Panel (ETP) program, which provides funding to help offset the cost of employee training. Those two factors created a golden opportunity for us. We are now getting the specialized training we need, and COS handles all aspects of ETP administration for us. The Training Resource Center has been a phenomenal resource for us. They are our go-to source for training for our employees. I would define our relationship as a strategic partnership.
Q: Can you tell us more about how College of the Sequoias helped you apply for and administer ETP funding?
Secara: COS has been really fantastic. The staff at the Training Resource Center walked us through the ETP documentation and showed us how it should be filled out. They were instrumental in helping us successfully complete the documentation and apply for the funding.
Q: Are there other factors that make your relationship with College of the Sequoias successful?
Secara: COS is proactive in understanding the employee training needs of companies in the region. They listen to us and to the community. They make the effort to understand the broader economic and workforce development needs of business and industry in the region. They are especially attuned to the needs of all sectors of the agricultural industry here in the Valley. They provide food safety training not only for companies like ours—food processors—but also for growers.
Q: What specific types of employee training has College of the Sequoias provided to your company?
Secara: The classes we’ve utilized so far are the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP) and the Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) training. The HACCP training is critical because it teaches a process control system that identifies where hazards might occur in the food production process and puts into place necessary actions to be taken.
Both of those classes are crucial for an organization to be in compliance with the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was enacted to ensure safe preparation of food products for human consumption and to prevent food-borne illnesses. To meet the FSMA compliance standards, Svenhard’s must have a certified PCQI on staff at our facility who is registered with the FDA. We are also planning to send some of our staff to the Frontline Supervisor Training that COS offers.
Q: The FSMA legislation must be having a significant impact on food growers and processors in California. With so many new employees, it must have been a challenge for Svenhard’s to get staff trained and up-to-speed on the new compliance requirements.
Secara: Yes, of course. We’re food processors making pastry for consumers. The new regulations have definitely impacted us. The upside is we have rallied around this challenge to create a company culture at every level of staff—from janitors to executives—that understands the importance of the new food safety regulations. The training we’ve undertaken helps us not to just be in compliance but to have the knowledge that enables us to avoid creating problems. Part of the food safety training process is leaning the do’s and don’ts of sanitation processes, of cooking processes, and of handling processes. So, it really does impact everybody in our organization, from top to bottom.
Partnering with COS for food safety training has made the process so much easier. And equally as important is being able to utilize ETP funding that helps offset the cost of getting our people trained. We have more than 250 employees and, so far, we’ve sent 40 people to the training classes. We never would have been able to have as many people trained without the help of COS and the ETP funding.
Q: Have the employee training programs been successful?
Secara: I can tell you this: every one of the 40 people we’ve sent for the HACCP training has come back with a positive, energized, enthusiastic attitude. They’ve returned to the workplace with the desire to make a difference, to participate in making changes that benefit the company and, most importantly, our customers. And they thank the company for sending them to the training. I think that’s a huge measurement of the success of the training that COS has provided.
About the Training Resources Center at College of the Sequoias
College of the Sequoias’ Training Resource Center provides customized employee training and consulting solutions to organizations in Tulare and Kings counties. Our mission is to advance the economic growth and global competitiveness of local business and industry. Our vision is to be the region’s preferred partner for training and consulting services.
Our training programs are tailored to meet specific industry needs and in-demand skill sets. Program offerings include:
- Advanced Manufacturing
- Computer Software Skills
- Essential Workplace Skills
- Food and Agriculture Safety
- Frontline Supervisory Skills
- Industrial Automation
- Leadership Training
- Quality and Improvement
- Soft Skills Training
About UpSkill California
The UpSkill California consortium is composed of more than 30 California Community Colleges that deliver customized employee training and workplace education via Workforce Training & Development Centers (WTDC). The Centers receive support from the Employment Training Panel (ETP)—a state agency that provides funding to employers to assist in upgrading the skills of their workers through training. ETP funding helps off-set the costs of job skills training necessary to maintain high-performance workplaces.
To help businesses manage and administer the complexities of ETP contracts, several of our college members are designated as Multiple Employment Contract (MEC) holders. Those colleges also assist other consortium members in procuring ETP contracts for their clients, thus expanding the geographic area served by ETP. Colleges that are MECs are identified in the list below. Non-designated colleges subcontract with MEC colleges to procure ETP funding for their clients.
Find the Workforce Training & Development Center in your region.