APPLETON, Wis. (WLUK) -- Every sector of Wisconsin’s agricultural economy has been hit hard in the past couple of years, including meat processing.
Fox Valley Technical College is trying to help with the labor shortage by starting a meat talent certificate program.
“When the industry went through the COVID-19 pandemic, there were disruptions in the supply chain that affected the meat processing industry and livestock producers in the state of Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary Randy Romanski said.
In January, Gov. Tony Evers announced $5 million to fund meat talent careers.
FVTC is one of nine other technical colleges taking advantage.
“Because we already have meat ID and sanitation running, we have the capability currently on staff and on schedules to run nine sections of meat ID per year, and sanitation has a limitless capacity,” said FVTC culinary arts instructor Chef Jeff Igel. “That means we can bring in any number of students.”
The eight-credit certificate will give students the chance to get hands-on experience, working directly with farmers and interning with processors.
“We are making food, and we need to work with the people that are helping to turn our livestock or our food products into food that the consumer is getting,” said Kaitlin Spierings, agribusiness and science technology instructor at FVTC.
The program also includes slaughtering experience at three mobile harvest units and tuition reimbursement.
“This is going to be huge for the state and for our students because many of our students are not financial aid eligible for these programs,” Betsy Leonard, Wisconsin Technical College System education director for agriculture and natural resources director.
Students already in the culinary program can still take advantage of this opportunity.
The certificate can just be an addition to their degree.
“I asked him, you know, ‘Is there any further education I could take in meat processing?’” said culinary student at FVTC Faye Kosacz-Ruffolo. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t available then, so this is amazing, and I’m unbelievably excited!”