It is shocking to look around and realize that fellow employees are getting older. And it is even more shocking to look in the mirror! The aging of a workforce can impact any industry and this is true for the rendering industry’s personnel as well. The vitality and future of any business rests on its ability to hire talented, smart, motivated new employees to lead the company into the next generation. Unfortunately, due to the unique nature of the rendering industry, finding new employees with a thorough understanding of the industry has been reported by a number of rendering companies to be a difficult task.
Clemson University, through its Animal Co-Products Research and Education Center (ACREC), is actively engaged in educating students on rendering issues. Through the various research projects sponsored through ACREC, more than 50 master of science and doctor of philosophy students have been introduced to the world of rendering. Also, approximately a dozen post-doctoral scholars have been involved in rendering research projects ranging from microbiology to engineering areas.
Although the majority of communications concerning ACREC has centered on its research and graduate education activities, an equally important aspect of the program is undergraduate education. In Clemson’s undergraduate education programs, more than 230 students were introduced to rendering in the past year alone. Dr. Charles Gooding, professor of chemical engineering, has directed students in both sophomore and senior level engineering design classes. These students are most likely the first chemical engineering students to ever learn about animal by-product rendering in a formal university class setting.
As a professor and center director of ACREC, I have taught rendering basics to 75 undergraduate students in a senior level animal and veterinary science course on animal products. These students were primarily pre-veterinary medicine students who were familiar with livestock and animal processing, but few had ever heard of rendering prior to the course. Additional courses are also introducing undergraduates to rendering, and the “Rendering 101” article written by Dr. Gary Pearl for Render magazine and the Essential Rendering book written by numerous industry professionals and edited by Dr. David Meeker have been used extensively as reference materials.
Educating each group of students on rendering is only the first step in a process that will yield long-term benefits for the industry. The chemical engineers or veterinarians or food microbiologists or other specialists who are introduced to rendering through Clemson University will be a generation of ambassadors for the industry – the first educated on the intricate aspects of rendering at a university in many decades, if ever. However, the most exciting facet of rendering education is that this group of students is a unique pool of potential new employees to lead the rendering industry into the future.
Students from a wide variety of different fields at Clemson could become potential employees for rendering companies. These fields include chemical engineering, material science and engineering, bioengineering, agricultural and biological engineering, mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, automotive engineering, civil engineering, logistics, computer science, business administration, management, microbiology, biology, chemistry, food science, packaging science, and animal and veterinary science.
As much as can be taught in classrooms though, Clemson University’s professors recognize that experienced-based education is one of the most valuable tools available. Therefore, to further enhance its rendering educational programs, Clemson is interested in developing an internship program with the rendering industry. An internship is a short-term (typically two to four months) paid experience where the student works in the industry. Internships are a unique way rendering companies can conduct a trial period with a student employee to see if he/she will fit the future needs of the company. During this internship period, the student also has an extraordinary opportunity to learn, to understand the industry, and to determine if this will be his/her career direction. Most often a student will spend a semester or a summer on an internship depending on their course requirements.
The Clemson University Michelin Career Center (http://career.clemson.edu) offers companies a valuable mechanism for advertising internships. Troy Nunamaker, director of internships at the Michelin Career Center, reports the Clemson JobLink can be programmed to limit student applicants based on major, class standing, and/or minimum grade point average. A position description that outlines the roles and responsibilities of the job is typically prepared by the company for inclusion on an internship announcement. Company information can be kept confidential on the advertisement, if requested. Because of the unique nature of the rendering industry, it is suggested that certain requirements also be included, such as reading Essential Rendering from the National Renderers Association (NRA) Web site and completion of a preliminary test of general rendering knowledge with test questions developed by the NRA and Fats and Proteins Research Foundation members. In addition, a rendering plant visit should be strongly encouraged before any student applies for an internship.
The Clemson University Michelin Career Center holds career fairs on campus every September and February during which multiple companies visit campus to interview potential job and internship candidates. However, companies also can choose to interview potential candidates anytime throughout the year. Companies interested in hosting an intern should begin communications with Clemson University approximately four to six months prior to the opportunity.
For the student, one of the most common limiting factors for a short-term study period is finding and paying for housing. As noted throughout time, college students are almost always short on money. Because they typically have to commit to a year-long lease near campus, housing for the duration of an internship can mean having to pay two leases – and most students have difficulty finding funds for the added expense. Therefore, in order to be able to accept an internship, a student likely will need housing or availability of a short-term lease location near the work location and sufficient salary to pay housing expenses. Travel to distant areas for internships may also require financial assistance for travel expenses. Salary considerations are based on experience, class standing, grade point average, and degree area. Additionally, salary would be dependent on if the candidate is an undergraduate, master of science, or doctor of philosophy student or is a post-doctoral scholar. Personnel at the Clemson University Michelin Career Center can provide historical salary ranges to assist companies in developing an internship program.
Any rendering company interested in hosting an internship is encouraged to contact ACREC’s center director at email@example.com to discuss needs. Students educated through ACREC programs and Clemson University coursework can provide a pool of worthy candidates to lead the rendering industry into the next generation. During an internship, companies can see the potential employee in action at a lower initial salary and prior to a long-term employment commitment. In the meantime, the student will have a valuable work experience and learn day-by-day operations in a modern rendering facility.
Certainly, today’s students are tomorrow’s future. The rendering industry’s future looks very bright at Clemson University with many outstanding undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral scholars learning about and engaged in rendering studies.
December 2011 RENDER | back