US$4 million endowment will support expansion of safety training for grain handlers and other professional development courses
The Grain Elevator and Processing Society (GEAPS) plans to expand its library of safety training programs for grain handlers with the aid of a new $4 million endowment fund.
The society established the GEAPS Foundation in 2011 to collect donations toward a source of ongoing revenue for the expansion and maintenance of GEAPS educational programs. The society already offers myriad online and in-person training programs emphasizing the safe operation and maintenance of grain elevator and feed mill equipment, but with the additional funds, GEAPS will have more flexibility to expand and update its library, executive director Steve Records said.
The society’s existing training focuses primarily on the operations of a grain facility, particularly how to handle and condition grain safely and effectively. But with the establishment of a sustainable source of funding, GEAPS hopes to build on its existing library to expand on and add coursework in professional soft skills and new technologies such as automation. They also hope to provide training in a larger variety of formats, with the intent of reaching new audiences — farm workers, for example.
Large companies, Records said, have the resources to create their own content. So while GEAPS may end up augmenting their existing resources, they’re also cognizant of having a different value proposition for smaller companies, or even independent producers. The foundation-backed training will emphasize “on-demand learning, so that someone who starts a new job tomorrow has at their fingertips everything they need to know,” he said.
They’re also aware of a keen interest in automation, Records said. GEAPS already offers training intended to help producers understand, on a deep level, how automated equipment works so they don’t just “hit the button” without understanding the business implications of how automated facilities are designed and built, and the safety parameters that must be taken into consideration. The foundation is working to identify which specific technologies should be included in forthcoming content, Records said.
The foundation is still taking input regarding the desired format — and content — of future training, so when the new courses will begin to roll out remains undetermined. Jay Bergland, the society’s continuing education programs leader, is specifically looking for subject matter experts who could contribute to future content, Records said.
In addition, Records said GEAPS is also undergoing a strategic planning process to identify future fundraising opportunities that could be used to expand GEAPS regional outreach to potentially draw more agricultural producers into the network, though the exact use and source of the future funds has yet to be determined.