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JT Hearn working in the lab

Food safety program helps prepare OSU students for food industry

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Oklahoma State University students interested in food safety are taking advantage of a new program offered by the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center.

FAPC’s Food Safety Professional program recognizes current and future industry leaders specializing in food safety who have attended and completed a substantial number of workshops and trainings offered by the state-of-the-art food processing center.

Since the launch of the program in March 2018, three graduate students have applied and earned a certificate through the Food Safety Professional program –– Conner McDaniel, Sabra Billups and James Hearn.

James Hearn, food science graduate student specializing in food safety, said the program allows you to take workshops and trainings that apply to real-world food safety situations, which is definitely beneficial when entering the food industry.

“As a student or industry leader, these workshops and trainings give you a leg up on the competition,” he said. “The program certification gives you good talking points on a resume with a future employer. It’s a marketing technique that allows you to market yourself in the best way and that is with any certification, like the Food Safety Professional program.”

Hearn said the workshops and trainings help to conjoin people of similar interests together in one room.

“You’re not only learning the technical skills of the trade, but also getting networking experience, which is almost as important as the technical skills,” he said. “The connections you make here can get you much further in the industry.”

Conner McDaniel, OSU food science graduate student, said the Food Safety Professional provides students a goal to work toward.

“You’re not just leaving with an academic degree, but with experience in workshops and trainings that lead to an influential certificate,” she said. “The workshops and trainings supplied by FAPC help to acknowledge personal development.”

McDaniel also said the fact the workshops and trainings are offered to students at a discounted rate is really impressive, and it sets OSU and FAPC apart from other universities.

The program not only seeks participation of industry leaders but also encourages students who are interested in pursuing a career in the food industry, said Peter Muriana, FAPC food microbiologist and chair of the program.

“As food safety continues to evolve, there is a demand for professionals to ensure quality products are being developed and manufactured,” Muriana said. “Many of our food science students participate in an array of workshops and trainings here at FAPC because of the information gained from the program and its significance within the food industry.”

Muriana said he hopes employers will highly consider students who have completed the Food Safety Professional program for employment opportunities, as well as provide a financial stipend for those industry leaders who’ve received the award.

“These recipients could become higher-valued assets to organizations because of their participation in FAPC’s workshops and trainings,” Muriana said.

Students can qualify for the FAPC Food Safety Professional program by participating in FAPC workshops and trainings or by taking the equivalent OSU food safety academic courses.

To become a FAPC Food Safety Professional, students must complete at least two trainings or academic courses from each basic, regulatory and advanced categorical group, totaling 10 applied workshop credits.

To apply for the program, individuals must download the FAPC Connect app by texting FAPC to 80802 or visit www.fapcconnect.comand submit the Food Safety Professional form.

FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop and deliver technical and business information that stimulates and supports the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.

Story by Ashley Gifford, FAPC

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