The online shift can also be felt in how grain industry firms approach continuing education, as the Grain Elevator Processing Society (GEAPS) and Kansas State University expanded their partnership in distance education this summer to offer online courses and a Credential in Grain Processing Management.
“With respect to professional development and training—in all facets of the grain industry—the trend is definitely online,” GEAPS International president Jim Jundt tells Milling & Grains. “Distance-ed courses can be highly effective, reducing the need to travel to conferences and seminars. Furthermore, grain companies can now farm much of the training out via online education. Instead of doing it all themselves, they can rely on experts—including specialists working in the field and university professors. That is another reason the GEAPS/K-State program has worked so well. Companies with limited budgets no longer have to provide all of the training themselves. Online education saves everyone time and money.”
Starting as a single course eight years ago, the program has since expanded to 21 (with plans for three more in the works) on huge demand from grain industry members. Indeed, since 2006, more than 2,800 people have signed up for the courses from around the world—primarily grain-handling industry professionals, industry service providers and university students (who can earn credits in some cases), says.
And the program—which Jundt calls the first (and still only) of its kind for the grain processing industry—isn’t just for people in the US. “People from 30 countries have taken GEAPS/K-State courses, and the total is growing,” he says. “The demand for cost-effective, high-quality training in the grain industry is truly global.”
On-the-job experience important, but one-dimensional
While he calls on-the-job experience “irreplaceable”, Jundt (who also manages feed sales and distribution at Pacific Ethanol Columbia LLC) says it can also be one-dimensional, which is why more and more are seeking out industry-wide insights.
Because the courses are professionally made and planned by GEAPS members (who themselves work in grain facilities), they aim to closely reflect industry interests and needs, with an emphasis on practical information that can be used on the job. They’re all online, meaning students can complete work when it’s easiest. But most importantly, Jundt says, they lead to formal credentials.
“If you really want to learn grain-industry best practices about issues such as safety, quality management, equipment maintenance and so on, it’s probably wise to look beyond your job and even your company. GEAPS/K-State courses, which are peer-reviewed, offer a bigger picture. Students are exposed to state-of-the-art thinking about key grain-industry functions. That industry-wide insight is difficult to acquire in a job setting.”
The program continues to expand with new processing courses, specialist credentials and a master’s credential to be added in the coming months. When asked about specific timetables, Jundt said the first processing course will be offered this month, with another set for January. GEAPS members, along with K-State, are just getting the processing program underway and will be working on schedules later this fall. Read more here.