Günhan ULUSOY, TFIF: “Together with educational institutions, we, as industrialists, have huge responsibility in order to ensure optimum use of labor potential and to provide employment opportunities for the young population towards a better future. Please remember that educational investment in the sector will have a notable place in national economy.”
In Turkey, 700 flour mills are active and production attains 12 million tons; moreover, the labor potential makes the country one of the leaders in flour milling sector all around the globe. TFIF (Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation) is established in 2004 in order to ensure better quality diet for Turkish public and to defend rights of shareholders within flour industry and sector; today, the federation is representative of its 8 member associations, as well as of Turkish flour industry, in national and international area. In this issue, we host Günhan Ulusoy, TFIF President, to talk about overview of Turkish agriculture and flour sector, qualified labor requirements in milling and education programs for specific training on milling in Turkey.
Mr. Ulusoy, could you please inform us a little about agriculture and flour sector? What can you say, in light of your impressions and observations, about the qualified labor requirement in milling sector and the effects of this deficiency? What are the problems and losses of the industry due to untrained labor?
Agriculture plays a vital part in economic and social development in Turkey, like all around the world. Agriculture continues to effectively fulfill its mission within national economy. Agricultural sector constitutes 8% of national income and 22% of employment, and has both economic and social aspects due to direct relation between food cultivation and diet. Agriculture concerns entire population with regard to high active population and labor, its contribution to national income; besides, it provides industrial sectors with raw material and capital, helps forming and protecting healthy environment, establishing and sustaining ecological balance.
Flour sector is directly influential on millions of people including farmers, bakers, relevant employment and consumers. In Turkey, there are 700 active flour plants. Actual production is about 12 million tons. When it comes to capacity utilization, Turkey has a rate of 45%, whereas the figure is 65% for the world.
Turkey has a young population. The employable population increases year by year; therefore, the employment opportunities and qualities require diversification in parallel with rising labor. Policies, which will enhance vocational training and encourage employment, should dominate. Requirements for vocational and technical training, as well as efforts for employment and training in this respect, are important for our sector. An analysis on labor indicators in sector reveal that the percentage of vocational school and high school graduates is very low.
Which domains, do you think, most require qualified labor in milling industry? What would be possible advantages and contributions of well-trained and qualified labor to the sector?
The sector can enjoy huge progress if training in vocational high schools is planned in consideration of national and international occupational standards, skill and competencies attain sufficient transparency, an objective assessment and evaluation system is established, competence in foreign language is ensured, newcomers are provided with internship possibilities for professional experience and preparation of relevant certificates of graduation.
How do you see the developments in milling training in Turkey? Can we talk about a satisfactory development in last 10 years with respect to a number of relevant educational institutions and trainings?
In the past, Turkey underwent positive and negative experiences regarding the training and incorporation of qualified employees in milling sector. We witnessed several times when educational departments, oriented at our sector, were established and unfortunately shut off. At international level, both sector shareholders and nongovernmental organizations establish institutes under academic approach for sector-related training.
In comparison with international standards, Turkish vocational and technical education has many deficiencies when it comes to adapting to market requirements, technological changes and local needs. Unfortunately, we lack an administrative level in which all shareholders are involved for common decision making and governance at high school or college level. As a result, our educational system cannot grow individuals whom the industry needs, who can practice their knowledge with due skills.
Apart from food engineering departments, milling programs are established within 2 colleges in Turkey. What do you think about these programs? Can the programs or their training standards compete at international level? In light of these experiences, what would be your brief message for Turkish educational institutions?
In this respect, we are happy that the vocational schools in Turkey are established pursuant to their foreign counterparts and follow their curricula. Accordingly, TFIF signed a protocol with Kansas State University and Gaziantep University Vocational School. We plan to provide students and current professionals at plants with new educational opportunities in terms of diversification of technical assistance and training. Flour and Bakery Products Technologies Program within Necmettin Erbakan University in Konya, aka the silo of Turkey, is established through collaboration between private sector and university. The advisory board consists of academicians, as well as representatives of sector, including employers and specialists. The curriculum is created by mentioned advisory board, and intends to establish well-trained employees in line with requirements of private sector.
Together with educational institutions, we, as industrialists, have huge responsibility in order to ensure optimum use of labor potential and to provide employment opportunities for the young population towards a better future, especially in a sector dominated by Turkey. Please remember that educational investment in the sector will have a notable place in national economy.
How can flour industry and Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation (TFIF) contribute to improvement of milling training? What can the flour industry do regarding combination of theory with practice? What part can TFIF play in this respect?
As Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation, we are aware of the importance of education, collaboration between universities and industry, as well as of technology and qualified employment. Accordingly, we will support training for providing the sector with continuous qualified employment through sustainable policies.
Therefore, we are aware of how valuable the present Flour and Bakery Product Technologies Program within Naci Topçuoğlu Vocational School in Gaziantep University is, just as the new Flour and Bakery Product Technologies Program at Konya Necmettin Erbakan University. We are completely convinced that flour industrialists and sector stakeholders will support both the programs and students, in collaboration with our federation.
Students in these programs will be granted internship opportunities; they will become the future of sector thanks to accurate experiences. Consequently, our enterprises will make up for the lack of employees with competent background and experiences. Combining their academic knowledge with assistance of flour industrialists, the students, who are raised in these programs, will take firms steps forward in becoming the much needed qualified individuals in the sector.
Finally, let’s talk about recent activities by Turkish Flour Industrialists’ Federation? Do you plan any meeting between vocational schools and sector in the following days?
We ceaselessly follow national and international developments in flour industry; besides, by means of associations, we keep informing our members with respect to sector-related legislation, industry-specific and economic assessment reports, trade, incentives and supports.
In this respect, the federation collaborates with Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and Turkish Grain Board (TMO) above all, as well as with Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Customs and Trade; besides, our organization conducts effective studies and researches together with senior specialists and technical experts. Joint meetings are held and participation in conferences is ensured in order to improve relations with other nongovernmental organizations and international institutions.
We need qualified labor for the future of sector; therefore, we have to keep up and develop Flour and Bakery Product Technologies (Milling) Programs within Gaziantep University Naci Topçuoğlu Vocational School and Konya Necmettin Erbakan University Food Processing Department.
To that end, we will enrich our contributions to vocational schools through TFIF 12th International Congress and Exhibition to be held in Belek, Antalya, between March 31 and April 3, 2016. This year, the exhibition will focus on “Global Trade and Milling Technologies.” We will be happy to host dear academicians and students at the congress.