Many years ago, someone dear to me told me “One trains their dog, but educates a person.” That person was my mother, who also happened to be a food science professor at Rutgers University.
Education means that people are not only taught a task, but also understand why they do the task and its importance. People who are trained may do a task by rote, but not know why they are doing it or why they do it the way they have been taught. A classic example in today’s world is why processors must educate their workers who do crucial tasks such as critical control point or preventive controls monitoring. These workers are performing a task that is essential to the production of safe foods, so they need to understand not only how to do the work, but why it is important.
An emphasis on education is even more critical given the way third-party audits have evolved and how regulators now conduct audits. Both auditors and regulators will observe when they are in plants and question managers from different departments, and will also interview workers doing the tasks. They will ask how the monitoring is done, why it is important, what the workers will do if there is a process deviation, and how they will keep records.
Education is one of the criteria we use when deciding what to print in Food Quality and Safety. We want to make people think and provide processors with tools to better manage their operations. In a recent issue the piece by Dave Park, “A Food Defense Plan Is Good for Business,” is one that food plant management should read. The piece implies that audits are a snapshot whereas assessments can be more in depth.
But many processors talk training instead of education, constantly looking for tools to “better train” their people. In addition, there are now programs that are mandated by law, such as Better Process Control Schools for processors of low-acid foods and the program for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals. Inexpensive alternatives to these are programs available online rather offered in a classroom. If your company decides to go this route, think hard about whether your workers will be trained or educated. If the people who participate in these programs are simply trying to “pass a module,” my guess is that they are not really being educated but trained. Think about it…