Cultivating Skills for Pork Industry Professionals

ILLINOIS, US - Management-level professionals in the pork industry now have the opportunity to strengthen their leadership and business skills through a two-year certificate programme uniquely tailored for their needs.
calendar icon 1 September 2011
clock icon 4 minute read

Developed by the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, the new Executive Pork Producers Program (EP3) is the first programme to target owners and managers in the pork industry for skill development to both improve their company's bottom line and cultivate the industry's leadership community. This focused, intensive programme is designed to teach real-world skills that can impact business practices from day one.

The new programme starts in November 2011 and runs through May 2013. Cost, registration and other information are online [click here]. Enrolment is limited to 40 producers to ensure close interactions among participants and instructors. EP3 graduates will receive a certificate in business management.

The University of Illinois has a proven history of creating educational programmes that integrate scientific and business content focused on skill development for key leaders in animal protein production. EP3 is modelled after the award-winning Executive Veterinary Program (EVP) in Swine Health Management, a programme for veterinarians begun in 1991 at the university.

"The timing of the first Executive Veterinary Program (EVP) was truly insightful," said Randy Bush, DVM, EVP, a leading swine practitioner from Flora, Indiana, and a member of the first EVP class. "Our industry was very rapidly changing and its health leaders needed to become aware of bigger issues than just their own clients or company.

"[EVP] gave me the confidence to take on new responsibilities, attack new problems and work with other professionals cooperatively. I believe the new Executive Pork Producers Program class will have the same impact on the pork industry," said Dr Bush.

Larry Firkins, DVM, MS, MBA, EVP, assistant dean for public engagement at the veterinary college, reported,: "Nearly 200 top swine veterinarians have participated in EVP in the past 20 years. These graduates currently work with a large percentage of the pork producers in North America, and they saw the need for a similar programme to benefit their clients.

"With input from these leaders in swine health, the EP3 curriculum was selected for quality and relevance to industry needs. Information presented in each module progressively builds skills over the course of two years," said Dr Firkins.

Dr Firkins and Dr Jim Lowe, DVM, MS, EVP, a visiting clinical instructor at the veterinary college, are co-coordinators of EP3. Dr Firkins is an international speaker on human resource and leadership skills in the animal production industry. Dr Lowe brings a real-world focus on today's business challenges based on his years of experience in teaching, consulting, and managing pork production systems. Their combined contributions have served the global swine industry in 20 countries on issues related to swine health and management.

The structure of the new programme follows that established by EVP: participants meet in Urbana every other month on a Thursday and Friday for a total of 10 sessions. Each session features a leading speaker on topics such as increasing employee engagement, optimising profit and building efficient production systems. Between sessions participants complete assigned work and continue to dialogue with classmates and instructors via electronic means.

In recent years, the National Pork Board has repeatedly identified the need to develop human capital within the pork industry among the most pressing issues facing the industry. EP3 will create a cohesive network of pork production leaders trained in financial management, leadership, strategic thinking, and problem-solving skills needed to position the pork industry for the future.

"Progressive and successful swine businesses have realised that investing in the training and leadership of their employees is a key to the success of their business," said Marlin Hoogland, DVM, MS, EVP, Midwest finishing veterinarian with Murphy-Brown LLC Western Operations headquartered in Ames, Iowa.

"[EVP] offered a broad wealth of knowledge that has enhanced my leadership and business skills. I find these skills valuable in my current management and production role," said Dr Hoogland. "I highly recommend production leaders offer this type of programme to their managers."

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