5 easier ways to stay on top of continuing education

education class

Continuing education is crucial for directors and their staff alike, but it also can be daunting. How do you know what makes sense for your team; and even then, how do you actually make it happen? FoodService Director asked operators how they keep themselves and their staff on the path to career-long learning.

1. Think beyond requirements

Keeping up with certifications in nutrition and food safety are a given. But what are you doing above and beyond that? “I encourage my folks to pursue items that I would call indirect or supplemental, but [are] not actually in their job description,” says Dawn Aubrey, associate director of housing for dining at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Some examples include inclusivity and diversity training, or American Sign Language, Spanish or Cantonese language training to improve communication with students. “University of Illinois has the most international students of any public university in the U.S., so to me, that’s a necessity,” Aubrey says. Areas of possible development are identified at annual review time and touched on throughout the year.

2. Bring opportunities inside your operation

Multiday conferences and out-of-town workshops are great opportunities, but they’re not always geographically or financially feasible. “We live in a very rural community … so those kinds of education opportunities aren’t as frequent. We have to be kind of innovative,” says Shey Schnell, director of food and nutrition services for The University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital. “We’ll work with vendors and say, ‘Hey, while you’re here, can you do a class for us?’”

Webinars also are a convenient, bite-size way to address specific topics, such as how to have critical conversations, with a modest time commitment, Schnell says. “Whether it’s in our department meetings or daily stand-ups, we try to make people aware that these opportunities are available, and if you have interest, [to] let one of your supervisors know,” he says.

3. Provide tangible support

Even with interest and good intentions, it can be hard to follow through with continuing education without the resources to support it. That support can come in the form of time or money—or both. At U of I, Aubrey’s department offers up to $1,000 in funding per year for continuing education on or off campus. U of I classes are free for employees, so in that case funding goes toward books or other classroom materials. During Aubrey’s nine and a half years in the position, 53 staff members have taken advantage of the opportunity, she says.

4. Keep an open mind

When deciding what continuing education to approve, Aubrey considers whether it matches up with the department’s core competencies and overall mission. Sometimes an opportunity that might seem off-topic could provide value, such as the time one of Aubrey’s employees applied to take a prop building and special effects class. “I struggled with it, [but] I said, ‘Dawn, you need to be a little more open-minded,’” Aubrey  says. “[The worker] said, ‘For special events, we’ll know how it works, and we can do it more cheaply.’ We ended up using their expertise and making the most awesome haunted house you’ve ever seen in your life.”

5. Lead by example

Creating a culture of learning is key, and practicing what you preach is the best way to do so. “I think the staff recognizes me as, ‘Shey loves education,’” says Schnell, who is pursuing a master’s degree in healthcare administration. “I fully believe in lifelong learning.” Aubrey is interested in researching food anthropology, the origins of food and its connections to culture and identity, especially with Gen Z in mind.  “If I didn’t have my day job, I’d launch into this and spend all my time,” she says. “I think there’s tremendous opportunity.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Italian food hall chain Eataly is making plans for a 2018 initial public offering in its home country, according to a report this week in Financial Times.

The company plans to list shares on the Italian stock exchange in Milan “as early as next year,” Eataly Executive Chairman Andrea Guerra told Financial Times .

Eataly is eager to expand the presence of its massive Italian food emporiums in the U.S., which have helped spur the growing food hall trend . The company has five locations here, with two in New York City and one each in Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Financial...

Industry News & Opinion

Students staffing the foodservice department at Rutgers University will soon get an hourly pay bump, as the New Brunswick, N.J., university is raising its wage for student workers to $11 an hour, philly.com reports.

The increase will go in effect Jan. 1 and will impact 13,000 students.

The fight to raise wages at the school was spearheaded by student group United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), which is continuing to push the university to increase student wages to $15.

The fight for a $15 wage for student workers has spread at schools throughout the country,...

Industry News & Opinion

After shutting down 265 schools due to ongoing wildfires, the Los Angeles Unified School District kept three schools open on Friday and Saturday to provide meals for students and their families, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At one of the schools, employees and volunteers handed out around 100 meals on Friday and 270 meals on Saturday. The meals included items such as dragonfruit punch, raisins, bananas, sunflower kernels, whole-grain cinnamon graham crackers, sunflower seed butter and fat-free chocolate milk.

Around 80% of students in the district come from low-income...

Sponsored Content
Breakfast chili

From Bush’s Best®.

While decadent plates of French toast and pancakes stacked high will always be breakfast favorites, it’s undeniable that savory breakfast items are on the rise in many foodservice operations. Menu items such as avocado toast and omelets aren’t new, of course, but consumers’ preferences for better-for-you food choices, along with their desire for global flavors, are driving this trend.

According to a recent Technomic Breakfast report, consumer demand for vegetarian ingredients has led to an increase of ingredients like soy, tofu, beans, lentils, seeds,...

FSD Resources