Iowa Lakes and Rembrandt Foods partner for employee training

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
An employee of Rembrandt Foods demonstrates some of the work the company does.
Photo submitted

Rembrandt Foods, a producer and processor of eggs, wanted its employees to have the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally — and Iowa Lakes Community College has provided some of the resources needed to reach that goal.

“We care for the chickens, collect the eggs and process them into products for our customers such as restaurants, hotels and hospitals or ingredients for commercial food production,” said Merle Mack, senior manager in training and organizational management at Rembrandt. “Our eggs are everywhere in the grocery store, you just don’t buy them by the dozen in the dairy case.”

The company has its corporate headquarters in Spirit Lake with 100 employees on staff, 50 more scattered throughout the country and another 700 at the various production plants. The largest plant is located in Rembrandt (thus the name) where 400 people are employed.

“Iowa Lakes has been wonderful to work with,” Mack said. “Gary Schmidt, (industry training programmer at Iowa Lakes), and Jolene Rogers, (executive director of community and business relations at Iowa Lakes), were open to what we needed and worked with us to pull it all together.

“We’ve been working on the integration of our new employees to set them up for success in their new roles,” Mack continued. “We help them meet and begin working with their team members, understand the company and try to provide the tools they need to succeed.”

Iowa Lakes has helped find specialized people to conduct training sessions for Rembrandt Employees, building the necessary skills for their jobs.

The college also supports the advancement of a continuous improvement program for the benefit of the current employees.

“We’ve added four new positions in the past year — a corporate director, program manager, project manager and continuous improvement specialist — to aid us,” Mack said. “Without Iowa Lakes supporting the advanced training for these positions, it would take much longer for our employees to learn and gain new certifications and advance our culture of continuous improvement.”

Mack stated teaching various methods and putting them into practice will help make the company more efficient and help improve the skills of the current workforce.

The staff is encouraged to sign up for developmental classes offered on a regular basis. Iowa Lakes provides support through the Leadership Series, which focuses on learning strengths, developing advancement skills and gaining more confidence in each employee’s role at work.

According to Mack, while they are working on skills, they are also learning to work well together as a team.

“At the rate our business grows and changes, these types of courses help our leaders adapt and stay agile to support the needs of the business and their teams,” he said.

Mindi McKibbin is now the director of research and development at Rembrandt. A northwest Iowa native who hails from Ida Grove, she spent several years in research and development at a company in Sioux City before taking a position at Rembrandt over three years ago.

Promoted to her current position in January 2017, McKibbin manages the research team and oversees two labs: one test kitchen and one analytical testing lab.

“I find the Iowa Lakes development program courses particularly helpful,” McKibbin said. “We have to improve practices already in place and promote positivity in the workplace. I find good reminders and good tips to improve and maintain positivity on our team.”

The diverse research team includes six people — some from northwest Iowa and some from neighboring states, as well as one from South America and another from Malaysia.

“The two to three courses we take during the year impact me and the team in a positive way as we work to improve our product,” McKibbin said. “We also need to make sure we develop new products that meet our customers’ needs.”

Her team is working on the increased demand on the nutritional side for eggs in powdered form.

“We know that eggs are good cholesterol, not bad cholesterol now. We are working on making the egg whites easy to use and are increasing the protein level to 90 percent,” McKibbin said.

By eliminating much of the salt and increasing the protein, the taste improves, making their product’s use in protein shakes and bars in higher demand, she explained.

“The courses by Iowa Lakes are different and good each year,” McKibbin said. “They are low in cost, only take half a day and you get a lot out of the courses to apply to your job. Gary and Merle work together to provide us good training options.”

Gary Schmidt, from the Iowa Lakes industry training division, is pleased with the manufacturing/college partnership.

“It is going great,” Schmidt said. “It does something different for each company we work with. We see the changes and improvements all the time.

“Rembrandt is a great company to work with and we plan to continue providing our product to them so they can continue to improve their product to their customers. It is a win-win situation. I hope more companies will take advantage of what we offer here at Iowa Lakes.”

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