GCCC’s new ServSafe and Food Science training mobile classroom arrived on campus March 4. The customized semi-trailer will provide refrigeration for safe meat transportation, cutting tables, a packager, meat smoker, interactive whiteboards, laptop computers, carts, and extensive instructional computer hardware and software. The mobile classroom expands to approximately 920 square feet and can accommodate up to 30 students.
The semi-trailer is a major component of GCCC’s TRAC-7 grant program, which is designed to engage potential students in a series of career training opportunities, including GCCC’s Food Science Program for men and women who want to work in the fast-growing food safety industry. The TRAC-7 consortium, coordinated by the Technical Institute at Washburn University, includes GCCC and five other Kansas community colleges. The seven programs were made possible by a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant from the U.S. Labor Department, and the TRAC-7 name refers to the seven institutions and the acronym, Technical Retraining to Achieve Credentials. GCCC is developing the food safety and inspection program with a $1.7 million share of the grant.
“We’ll be able to take the training trailer anywhere in Kansas, as well as neighboring states,” said Dr. Lenora Cook, GCCC TRAC-7 project manager. “That’s important because when you have the entire staff of a restaurant or a food processing facility in need of training, the classroom can literally go to them.”
Other components of GCCC’s program include improvements at the John Collins Vocational Building, ranging from lab and classroom renovation and expansion to a walk-in cooler as well as the addition of two full-time personnel, including an instructor and a technical education case manager.
The grant program is designed to support the collaborative efforts of the participating colleges to provide Kansas workers with academic and industry-recognized credentials and training necessary to meet the need for a skilled workforce, according to the project manager.
Based at the John Collins Technical Building on the Garden City campus, the GCCC signature program is expanding the capacity of the Food and Animal Science Program, through enhanced facilities and a redesigned curriculum that includes stackable credentials and a career pathway to increase access.
“This will meet the growing need for credentialed personnel in the field of meat and food safety inspection,” said Cook. “Our program will train 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 demand for inspection services is increasing because of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which became law in January 2012. The measure 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.
The law boosts the need for additional USDA inspectors, according to Clint Alexander, GCCC animal science instructor and meats team coach, and requires a better understanding of food safety requirements on the part of operators and employees in restaurants, cafeterias and related facilities.