Right off the bat, let me personally thank everyone who attended Petfood Forum CONNECT this year. It was a learning experience for everyone on our end, and I hope it was for you too — though hopefully all your learning came from our amazing speakers, rather than from within the nuts-and-bolts of virtual event planning! The virtual event train rolls on in this strange year, and we have one more PFF-related item to address: Petfood Essentials CONNECT•ED, the re-designed Petfood Essentials optimized for the digital space that will launch as a short course on November 3, 2020.

Am I going to spend a blog post touting our own product? Yes I am, and here’s why: It involves industry education, which is a professional passion of mine.

The importance of education in the pet food industry

Part of Petfood Forum each year includes something called the Student Program, which I am the coordinator for. A small but growing addition to PFF, this program allows (among other things) undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. students from fields related to companion animal nutrition to present their academic research in an industry space. Both oral presentations and posters are showcased, and the students gain visibility to potential future employers … just as those potential employers are able to get a look at the future of the industry. (This year, all research was presented virtually.)

Of course, every student who comes to PFF, whether they are part of the research presentations or not, is under the banner of the Student Program and as such may receive access to our trade show floor (or virtual booths, this year), all the educational sessions, and special programs designed to connect students with industry experts and advisors.

To me, this seems vital to the continued health of the pet food industry. Yes, hire experts from within the industry looking for new opportunities. Yes, hire those with experience in other industries who would be a great fit for a career change. But also look further down the line: If there’s no “new blood,” so to speak, entering the industry, what will pet food’s future be? It takes all these elements to truly succeed, be it within a single company or within the industry it serves. Getting all these elements to serve the pet food industry more effectively is something I strongly believe in, and something I try to promote and expand my knowledge of whenever possible. Speaking of knowledge …

Petfood Essentials CONNECT•ED: for those new to pet food production

Once a company gains new employees, particularly if they haven’t worked in the industry before, one of the first things looked at is training. There are a lot of good training modules to be found in the pet food industry that cover a number of things (I myself attended an extrusion course within my first year of covering pet food, and have since both attended and spoken at various short courses focusing on different aspects of food and feed). This year, we’ve turned our Petfood Forum Innovation Workshop, which we rebranded as Petfood Essentials for 2020, into a six-module, immersive educational short course teaching pet food professionals the key elements and stages of pet food production and safety.

In the past, we’ve focused on many aspects of pet food production — ingredients, clean label and product development, among others — and we decided this year to get to the heart of making pet food. Each module, which covers such topics as ingredient selection and sourcing; batching, mixing, milling and grinding; preconditioning and extrusion; coating, drying and cooling; packaging; and quality, safety and testing, is designed to support entry-level employees with needed education of the process, food safety, regulations and critical control points in manufacturing dog and cat food.

Sound up your alley? Registration is open and it’s US$495 to “attend” the course with all the modules: check out www.PetfoodForumEvents.com/petfood-essentials/ for more information and to register.

Briefly: Six tips for recruiting on college campuses

Want to get yourself into the mindset of recruiting new grads to the industry? Here are some tips from Business News Daily, which wrote about the topic in October 2019:

  1. Attract younger candidates.
  2. Build long-term relationships.
  3. Do more than your competitors.
  4. Look beyond GPA.
  5. Organize a successful job fair.
  6. Recruit internationally.

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