NEHA January/February 2024 Journal of Environmental Health


Open Access


Decoding Training Needs: Developing a Needs Assessment Tool to Inform Workforce Capacity Building in Retail Food Safety Abstract From July through December 2022, the National Environmental Health Association conducted a national survey of retail food regulatory professionals. The purpose of the survey was to determine the training needs of this workforce. We devoted significant e‚ort to crafting the survey tool and aimed to gather extensive information. The goal of the survey was to enable the formulation of data-driven recommendations to shape the future of workforce development in the retail food regulatory community. The survey received a total of 2,253 valid responses, comprising 1,510 responses from individuals and 743 responses from representatives at the jurisdiction level. This collection of insights reflects a diverse range of perspectives, with regulatory professionals contributing both personal and informed responses regarding the training necessities within their specific retail food regulatory agencies. Since the closing of the survey, preliminary analysis has been done and a deeper dive into the data is in progress. The findings will be released through multiple manuscripts throughout 2024. This editorial is the first article in the series. Keywords: food safety, National Curriculum Standard, NEHA-FDA RFFM, retail food, training needs assessment, workforce capacity building

Rance Baker Samantha Streuli, PhD Gagandeep Gill, MPH, DrPH Joetta DeFrancesco, MA Chintan Somaiya, MBA, MS Rosanne DeVito, MPH, PMP David Dyjack, DrPH, CIH Manjit Randhawa, MPH, MD National Environmental Health Association

and Baylor University showed that 54% of the surveyed workforce was ≥45 years and 26% were >55 years (Gerding et al., 2019). With a workforce that is rapidly changing and steadily getting closer to retirement, it is important to determine how to create suc- cession planning and sustainability for the EPH food safety field. Our training needs assessment aimed to find career develop- ment road maps that would inform how to scientifically approach onboarding new sta— and help career professionals move up in the system. Recent changes to the workforce have also disrupted the usual process of workforce advancement, meaning that sta— can now find themselves advancing professionally more quickly than anticipated. Entry-level workers need to be ready to take on respon- sibilities that in the past might have become job duties several years into their careers. Those same entry-level workers would have often picked up the scientific basis behind food safety through higher education but might lack the practical application of that knowledge when it comes to inspection skills and communication with the retail food facilities they are responsible for regulating. The COVID-19 pandemic also caused an upheaval in retail food regulatory training. Classes that had historically only been face- to-face were either canceled or moved into a virtual environment. It has become neces- sary to understand how both training and learning have been impacted by all of these changes to plan for future EPH workforce development. When we were developing the survey model and evaluation plan, we kept in mind the mandate in the Food Safety Mod- ernization Act (FSMA) to create an Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS). Our research took

Defining the Problem: Training a Changing Workforce Environmental public health (EPH) pro- fessionals play an important role in ensur- ing retail food safety; however, resources to support EPH workforce development and training have gotten harder to find over the past decade (Gerding et al., 2020; Resnick et al., 2009). As a result, EPH profession- als have been challenged to do more with less, including responding to emerging public health emergencies like COVID-19. A survey of the public health workforce that included EPH professionals found that

66.2% of workers reported high rates of burnout and that the number of individu- als planning to leave the public health work- force increased during COVID-19 (Stone et al., 2021). Notably, those professionals with more work experience were more likely to report high rates of burnout and the inten- tion to leave the workforce in the next few years (Stone et al., 2021). The Understanding the Needs, Chal- lenges, Opportunities, Vision, and Emerging Roles in Environmental Heath (UNCOVER EH) initiative we partnered on with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Volume 86 • Number 6

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