New job training program at Summit Academy addresses labor shortage in food manufacturing

Kavita Kumar, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

Summit Academy OIC has teamed up with a nonprofit and some of the region's largest food companies to offer a new pilot program that will train workers to help fill the labor shortage in food manufacturing.

At the same time, the program's leaders hope to expose more Summit students — who are often low income and people of color facing various obstacles — to career pathways in the food industry.

The partnership is being spearheaded by 4 Access Partners (4AP), a recently formed Twin Cities nonprofit with connections to General Mills, Cargill, Second Harvest Heartland, Kowalski's Markets, and other local companies, which are participating in the program.

Summit has provided job training programs in north Minneapolis for more than two decades.

The seven-week food manufacturing program is funded by Summit and 4AP and so is free for students. The first course starts at the end of this month and may run several times a year. It aims to prepare workers for entry-level jobs that pay at least $20 an hour and include benefits.

"There is a great need," said John Mendesh, a co-founder of 4AP and a retired General Mills executive. "Food companies have gobs of openings."


He added that these jobs have lots of potential for advancement and can lead to a fulfilling career.

"Those of us that have benefited greatly from participating in the food industry believe that the industry is terrific for economic development," he said. "It can be meaningful for families and communities."

Summit is recruiting students for the program, which will also provide the job readiness component of the training such as math, computer, and interviewing skills.

4AP will supply the food industry expertise in the classroom with volunteer instructors recruited from its partner food companies. The course will also include on-site visits to food manufacturing operations around the Twin Cities so students can get a firsthand look at those jobs.


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