The continuing education programs that IFT has offered for many years, most notably the pre-Annual Meeting courses, have contributed to the professional development of many IFT members.
Nevertheless, after considerable discussion, the Executive Committee in March 2006 decided that continuing education should play an even more significant role and made it one of IFT’s five goals for 2006–07:
To establish the structural framework for IFT to develop and deliver high-quality continuing education programs in response to the defined needs of the membership.
The Executive Committee appointed a task force in June to provide recommendations on the optimum committee structure for development, evaluation, and promotion of IFT continuing education programs. The task force completed its work in August and recommended, among other things, the creation of a new Continuing Education Advisory Committee that would combine many of the previous activities of the Continuing Technical Education Committee and the Career Development Committee.
The members of the new committee, under the leadership of Ellen Bradley, are responding to the task force’s recommendations and a previously completed needs assessment.
One of the needs identified is to offer courses required at various stages in an IFT member’s career. These courses must deal with timely topics, such as food safety, labeling, etc. Another need is to emphasize both technical and professional development.
The committee members come from a diverse cross-section of IFT membership. This is critical in creating educational offerings to meet the professional development needs of a diverse membership and the diverse technical and nontechnical employees throughout the food industry.
An important role of the committee is to provide leadership, partnership outreach, and sound, unbiased decision making for the selection of course topics and faculty. The committee is developing a process for evaluating future course topics and an evaluation instrument based on the number of attendees and quality of course content. It is also developing a formal approach for identifying faculty for future continuing education programs.
Through this new committee, IFT should be well positioned to offer programs that meet the needs of most food science professionals, and respond to the annual goal in a cost-effective manner.
The committee plays a critical role in the development, review, and recommendation of IFT’s Knowledge & Learning Center educational programming—the short courses, pre-Annual Meeting programming, and e-learning initiatives—and in strengthening the appeal and value of these programs to food science professionals.
The committee will help the Center identify an array of course topics, based on statistically sound survey results. These will include both technical and nontechnical topics in response to the diverse needs of IFT members and professionals throughout the food industry. And these courses will operate according to an overall break-even financial model.
During planning for the spring 2007 and pre-Annual Meeting short courses, the committee reviewed proposals and benchmarked topics against educational needs assessment data and other organizational benchmarks. A recently revised proposal form encourages the collection of more targeted and useful information for the committee to use to make sound recommendations. This information will assist in the selection of short course topics and other programming and the marketing of these programs to appropriate target audiences.
Last month, the Knowledge & Learning Center launched Webcasts, a new and innovative learning opportunity. The programs, which run approximately 1.5 hours, are broadcast live via a Web site and conference call and can also be viewed on demand after the broadcast. They are geared toward disseminating new concepts and offering practical information for industry professionals to use immediately in their positions. The flexibility of the Webcasts will make it easy for members and colleagues to gain insights into topics of interest without the expense and time associated with traveling to a specific location.
I am pleased with the progress of the Continuing Education Advisory Committee. With the Committee’s input, the IFT Knowledge & Learning Center should be a visible component of our organization and contribute to the positive image of IFT.
I encourage all IFT members to submit suggestions for short courses, Webcasts, or faculty/speakers by e-mail to [email protected] or via the Internet at ift.org/knowledge.
by Dennis R. Heldman,
IFT President, 2006–07
President, Heldman Associates, Weston, Fla.