The merger of the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers Association (B&CMA) with the American Bakers Association (ABA) is reaping the anticipated benefits. Perhaps even more. The “Stronger Together” tour has officially ended, but the synergies continue to build. The education team at ABA is making remarkable progress in expanding the Cookie & Cracker Academy (CCA) to all ABA members. The cookie and cracker education programs complement the existing programs of other organizations such as AIB International and the American Society of Baking to bring a well-rounded offering to our members.

One chore during the merger that became more exciting than anticipated was reviewing the B&MCA files and memorabilia for the move. How can so much stuff fit into one small office? There was a collection of golf hats, programs and event information from every Technical Conference for the last 40 years. These all brought back fond memories of times past. However, when we started going through the old technical manuals and training programs, we realized the treasure trove of shared learning illustrating the dedication of the members to industry training. It became obvious that education must not become a fond memory, but an active, ever-changing program to meet the needs of the industry.

Sorting through the old B&CMA files certainly proved interesting. The in-depth knowledge shared by past bakers was incredible. Manual after manual listed standard formulas and procedures, including drawings of the chemistry behind the scenes. Detailed notes were made describing the chemical changes occurring during the baking process showing the formulas in great detail. These were all meticulously handwritten. We have overcome the need for much of this detail through strong involvement of our allied partners. What will happen when we no longer have this world of knowledge in our bakeries?

The chairman of B&CMA in 1948 must have sensed this when he wrote a piece on education in the B&CMA newsletter. There appeared to be a great deal of frustration behind his words when he wrote: “How can bakers afford not to make use of the training programs available to them through the association? It is hard to imagine how you can be concerned about your bottom line when your employees are not fully trained.” He went on for three full pages to his fellow bakers imploring them to make use of the training. Obviously, his words were heeded. The training programs not only continued, but became more in depth—all due to the involvement of members who knew the rewards of proper training.

Even the most basic of training has become critical in our ever-changing employee environment. Job chasers have caused us to rethink our training approach. Supervisors must be made aware of the fundamentals of leadership. The ABA Front Line Leader program is a very successful example meeting the industry’s needs. Another success is the Entry Level Training (ELT) hands-on training. We can no longer assume our employees have a basic understanding of our processes. This is evident in comments heard at a recent ELT hands on training class: “Now I see why consistency is so important. My actions affect the entire process down the line. Now I see how.”

We all understand the difficulties of scheduling training sessions. Getting quality product out the door to meet our customers’ needs will always remain a priority. However, there is a way we can accomplish both objectives by having the training available on demand in each plant. ABA is in the process of turning this training back to our members through the “ELT Train the Trainer” program. Once the trainers are “trained up,” they can deliver smaller portions of the training on demand during downtime or during shorter sessions that meet the changing schedule. This can be used during the onboarding process and as recurrent training for those who need it. The merger is allowing these long discussed enhancements to move forward.

I believe our founding fathers would be proud of the advances we have made in our training programs. We got the message our chairman delivered back in 1948 in spite of a rapidly changing world. I just do not know what I am going to do with all these golf caps in my office.