Ag secretary touts GCCC'snew mobile ag classroom
By ANGIE HAFLICH
Garden City Community College's mobile agricultural classroom dedication took place Thursday morning, and community leaders, college officials and the secretary of agriculture talked about the benefits of the unit and the opportunities it will create.
Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman was on hand for the dedication, and said that the mobile classroom will ensure that more stringent federal requirements for food safety and handling are being met, which will in turn create the need for both students and employees across the state to be trained in food inspection, safety and handling.
"We have the Food Modernization Act coming down the pike from our federal government, which basically says, 'We're going to inspect everything from the farm all the way to the plate,'" Rodman said. "(That's) going to require more technical skills, more involvement all the way through."
The act gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to order food product recalls, requires greater frequency of inspections and focuses those inspections on potential risk. It also stipulates that food processing facilities write and follow food safety plans, in addition to addressing natural and man-made risks to the safety of fresh products.
GCCC's food science program addresses the need for this type of skilled workforce by training workers to serve in the inspection of restaurants, meat packing and food processing plants, cafeterias and other facilities that provide food to the public. The new program offers two certifications in addition to an associate of science degree.
Lenora Cook, dean of health services at GCCC, said ServSafe training will be delivered on campus or through the mobile lab. ServSafe trains employees in food sanitation and safety in preparing and serving food.
"As we build onto that certificate pathway, we can add on HACCP training, which is the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, another certificate that we need in the food industry," Cook said.
The HACCP certificate allows students to enter the food safety industry through the HACCP process that identifies and prevents hazards in food production.
The unit also will be available to train current employees of meat packing and food processing plants and other facilities that produce or serve food to the public.
Rodman said the technology and mobility of the unit will serve the Kansas economy, by supplying skilled workers, and that it is possible that the unit will be used by the Kansas Department of Agriculture for training purposes, as well.
"Programs like Garden City Community College's mobile classroom is an example of how government and education can, and should, work together to help our state grow," Rodman said. "I commend (GCCC President) Dr. (Herbert) Swender and his team on their efforts in this classroom project and the work they've done, which will benefit the entire state."
Following the dedication, people were allowed to take a tour of the 920-square-foot customized mobile lab, which provides interactive whiteboards, laptop computers and extensive instructional computer hardware and software.
"We have the PowerPoint where we can do presentations. On the front side of it, we have a kitchen with a three-compartment sink so we can use for demonstrations, hand washing and how to handle food safely," Cook said.
The unit, which has a 30-student capacity, was funded through a Technical Retraining to Achieve Credentials (TRAC 7) grant, a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor that supports the efforts of seven Kansas community and technical colleges including GCCC, Washburn Technical College, Cloud County Community College, Dodge City Community College, Flint Hills Technical College, Highland Community College and Salina Area Technical College. These schools will collaborate to provide workers with the academic and industry-recognized credentials and training necessary to meet the need for a skilled workforce.
GCCC is developing the food safety and inspection program with a $1.7 million share of the grant.
"As part of the TRAC 7 consortium, GCCC is excited at the prospect of training the food science workforce across the state," Swender said. "We'll take the training trailer anywhere in Kansas and into neighboring states."