Dairy technologist training: Future requirements in the dairy industry

Dairy technologist
© Molkerei Ammerland

Throughout Europe and to some extent throughout the world, dairies and cheese factories are in desperate need of apprentice dairy technologists and qualified experts to fill managerial positions.

Companies are certainly more than happy to employ experts from countries other than Germany, Austria or Switzerland, who bring with them completely new approaches to dairy processing, and who have a slightly different professional background to classic dairy technologists…

Lack of clarity

…however, there has always been a lack of clarity concerning the precise contents of the dairy technologist training completed, for example, by a job candidate from France or one from Denmark. It is difficult, therefore, to assess, in advance, how and where professionals could or should be deployed at a dairy. This is about to change as the Association for European Dairy Industry Learning (AEDIL) has decided to solve this problem. A part of the EU-funded Erasmus+ project entitled “Mapping Skills Needs and Supply in the Dairy Sector” has not only compared the knowledge and skills of dairy professionals across Europe, but it has also identified the professional qualifications that will be important for dairy technologist training in the future.

Green and digital skills are in demand

Skills ranging from knowledge of raw materials, hygiene and microbiology to process technology and packaging still constitute the main requirement. However, in an increasingly automated operating environment, these skills (albeit very extensive qualifications) are no longer anywhere near enough on their own these days. AEDIL has identified knowledge of digitalization and having a solid grasp of sustainability as other important elements of the dairy profession of the future which it has termed “green skills”.

Digital skills are extremely desirable and rank high on the list of qualifications that the dairy industry now expects employees to have. Such skills include having a solid understanding of the basics of automation and knowing how to use business management software. The organization recommends that pilot facilities at dairy colleges should feature the latest, cutting-edge technology in order to ensure that students are au fait with using it.

According to the 2018/2019 Annual Report of the Milchindustrie-Verband e.V. (German Dairy Industry Association – MIV), Europe is the world’s largest dairy producer, boasting 167 million tons. The U.S. is in second place with 99 million tons and China ranks third with 30 million tons. With an annual turnover of approximately EUR 26 billion, dairy represents the largest sector of the German food industry.

In terms of green skills, future dairy technologists will need to be able to assess the risks inherent in dairy processing, have a good insight into the reusing and recycling of energy and resources, and also understand business strategies from a sustainability standpoint.

Further training for dairy technologists

Milchflaschen auf dem Förderband in Molkerei
© unsplash / User: Mehrshad Rajabi

Knowledge and skills should be continuously improved and developed over the course of a dairy technologist’s career both qualitatively and in terms of scope: The various different specialist seminars elaborated and provided by AEDIL’s supporting member organizations, such as the Zentralverband Deutscher Milchwirtschaftler (Central Association of German Dairy Business Owners – ZDM), will help with this. However, the dairy supply and equipment industry is also being asked to help ensure that knowledge is properly transferred to training dairy technologists – after all, how can employees in the industry be expected to master increasingly complex techniques and understand complex technology if they haven’t been trained?

Specialist trade fairs such as drinktec – the world’s leading trade fair for the beverage and liquid food industry – represent another opportunity to acquire new knowledge and skills. The next event, which will be held from September 13 to 17, 2021 in Munich, will include a “Dairy Day” which will focus on topics concerning industrial dairy processing. Are you still looking for a platform to showcase your innovative dairy technology products and services? Then join us at the next drinktec.

Roland Sossna

The trained dairy expert, agricultural engineer and freelance journalist Roland Sossna is part of the editorial staff of the trade magazine molkerei-industrie (dairy industry) and IDM International Dairy Magazine. He regularly presents outstanding innovations from the dairy industry on the blog.