Management-level pork professionals can strengthen their leadership and business skills by enrolling in a first-of-its-kind two-year certification program uniquely tailored to their needs.

Developed by the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, the new Executive Pork Producers Program (EP3) is the first program to target owners and managers in the pork industry for skill development to improve profits and cultivate the industry’s leadership community. The intensive program is designed to teach real-world skills that can be put into practice immediately.

The new program launches Nov. 2011 and runs through May 2013. Cost, registration and other information are available online at www.ExecutiveProducersProgram.org. Enrollment is limited to 40 producers to ensure close interactions among participants and instructors. Producers who register by July 5, 2011 will receive a $500 discount. EP3 graduates will receive a certificate in business management.

The EP3 program is modeled after the award-winning Executive Veterinary Program (EVP) in swine health management, a program for veterinarians started at the university in 1991.

“The timing of the first EVP was truly insightful,” says Randy Bush, DVM, EVP, Flora, IN, a member of the first EVP class. “Our industry was very rapidly changing and its health leaders needed to become aware of bigger issues than just their own clients or company.

“EVP gave me the confidence to take on new responsibilities, attack new problems and work with other professionals cooperatively. I believe the new Executive Pork Producers Program class will have the same impact on the pork industry,” he adds.

Larry Firkins, DVM, EVP, is assistant dean for public engagement at the veterinary college and reports that almost 200 top swine veterinarians have enrolled in EVP over the past 20 years. “These graduates currently work with a large percentage of the pork producers in North America, and they saw the need for a similar program to benefit their clients.

“With input from these leaders in swine health, the EP3 curriculum was selected for quality and relevance to industry needs. Information presented in each module progressively builds skills over the course of two years,” Firkins says.

Firkins and Jim Lowe, DVM, EVP, a visiting clinical instructor at the veterinary college, are co-coordinators of EP3. Firkins is an international speaker on human resource and leadership skills in animal production. Lowe brings a real-world focus on today’s business challenges based on his years of experience in teaching, consulting and managing pork production systems. Combined their knowledge has served 20 countries around the globe on matters of swine health and management.

The format of the new program follows that established by EVP. Participants meet in Urbana, IL, every other month on a Thursday and Friday for a total of 10 sessions. Each session features a leading speaker on topics including increasing employee engagement, optimizing profit and building efficient production systems. Between sessions, participants complete assigned work and continue to dialogue with classmates and instructors electronically.

The National Pork Board has identified the need to develop human capital within the pork industry as among the most critical issues. EP3 will create a cohesive network of pork production leaders trained in financial management, leadership, strategic thinking and problem-solving skills necessary to position the pork industry for the future.

“Progressive and successful swine businesses have realized that investing in the training and leadership of their employees is a key to the success of their business,” says Marlin Hoogland, DVM, EVP, Midwest finishing veterinarian with Murphy-Brown LLC Western Operations based in Ames, IA.

“EVP offered a broad wealth of knowledge that has enhanced my leadership and business skills. I find these skills valuable in my current management and production role,” Hoogland says. “I highly recommend production leaders offer this type of program to their managers.”