Educating and Training the Workforce

Approximately 750 food manufacturers in Michigan generate nearly $15 billion of annual economic activity and support over 43,000 jobs. In the past decade the industry has seen a 60% growth and the continued growth has created an overwhelming gap in workforce for skilled labor. In West Michigan, 178 food processing establishments produce over 15,500 jobs with a growth rate of 16.4% between 2009 and 2014. The average earnings in this sector are over $56,000.

Education and training of the workforce needed is a key component of sustaining the growth of food processing and a key pillar of the West Michigan Shoreline Food Processing Initiative. Developing partnerships with industry and education institutions to build workforce capacity is vital. Building a workforce goes beyond training. Recruitment into food processing careers is essential to building that workforce.

Upon benchmarking the Finger Lakes Region of New York, which launched a Food Processing Cluster Initiative in 2010, the West Michigan Shoreline Food Processing Initiative and its principal supporters believe the following steps are integral to expanding the food processing sector in West Michigan:

  • Integrate more soft skills training in classrooms
  • Informing counselors and educators about the opportunities within the food and agriculture industry
  • Career Tech Education to include food processing
  • Boot camp, short courses, and certificate programs to address immediate needs
  • Two-year certificate and degree programs for future employment in skilled and management positions
  • Programs at Community Colleges for a 2+2 program for Bachelor Degree
  • Exploration of a tech education promise scholarships with incentive for students to stay in state
  • Expand commercial kitchen and production development incubation programs
  • Consider development of a chef incubator facility similar to Smallman Galley in Pittsburgh

Sector Overview


Total Jobs


Location Quotient
(84% above national average)


Job Growth 2009-2014
(National Rate: 1.4%)


Total Establishments


Average Earnings