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Food Processing Apprenticeship

What is an Industrial Machine Operator?

Every industrial machine requires an operator to interact with it to set parameters, adjust parameters, perform initial set up, ensure quality standards are adhered too. There are a wide variety of machinery to consider when discussing Machine Operations: 

  • Robotic Packaging Machinery, 
  • Robotic Sorting Equipment, 
  • Food Processing equipment and a variety of auxiliary equipment. 

Our Apprenticeship Program

As Washington’s largest non-profit advanced manufacturing training organization, AJAC offers apprenticeship training at little to no cost, to ALL employers in the food processing industry. At AJAC, we have industry experts on staff to help food manufactures and processors with their safety, sanitation, technology, maintenance and production needs.

AJAC’s 18-month Machine Operator apprenticeship combines 3,000 hours (93%) of structured on-the-job training in your company, on your machines and using your work processes, coupled with 300 hours (7%) of college-level classroom instruction accredited through a local community or technical college.

What Classes Are Offered?

AJAC’s Industrial Machine Operator program enhances your company’s OJT training with critical career theory delivered through the following college-level classes:

  • Safety & Sanitation: Concepts of working in a safe and sanitary and productive food manufacturing workplace. HACCP and OSHA30 principals will be covered in this course.
  • Industrial Maintenance & Mechatronics 1: Foundational principles and skills of industrial machine maintenance as it relates to a machine operator. Apprentices learn predictive and preventative maintenance and troubleshooting strategies for machine repair.
  • Industrial Maintenance & Mechatronics 2: Learn about mechanical rigging and installation, including safety, installation, and ways to perform lifts. They describe elements of electronic control systems, including diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits. They demonstrate knowledge of the main components, programming, and maintenance of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs).
  • Quality Assurance & Inspection: Develop an understanding of the functions of a Quality Assurance (QA) system. They identify the elements of QA systems and how they support safe food manufacturing processing.
  • Food & Material Science (Perishable/Non-Perishable): Explores the relationship between the basic principles of science and the safe manufacturing of food products. Apprentices gain an understanding of food science to learn how it applies to their day-to-day jobs. They explain the foundational principles of food chemistry, food microbiology, and food physics and how they relate to food production.
  • Food Manufacturing Technology: Explores the changing world of food manufacturing technology and helps students apply what they learn to a food-processing environment. Apprentices describe packaging, filling, sealing, boxing, labeling, and robotic sorting and palletizer systems.

On-the-Job Training Competencies 

This program includes 93% on-the-job training from industry mentors totaling 3,000 hours. The graphic below shows the approximate time spent in each core competency on the OJT experience. Note: tasks and rotation may look different at your company.

Industrial Machine Operator OJT Competencies

Membership Benefits

AJAC was founded to support the unique workforce development needs of advanced manufacturers in Washington State. By signing a membership agreement, employers benefit from the following:

Employer Benefits:

  • Nationally-Recognized Pre-Apprenticeship & Apprenticeship Programs Open to All Employers
  • Customized Internal Training Program Funded by Washington State
  • College-Level Classes Specific to Key Occupations
  • Pipelines and Connections to Adult Job Seekers, Pre-Employment Graduates, and K-12 Students
  • Eligibility for Grant Funding to Subsidize Training, Mentorship and sometimes Apprenticeship Wages
  • Connection to Industry News, Workforce Development Best Practices, and Emerging Changes to State Policy
  • Subject Matter Experts to Consult Your Training Needs
  • Professional Networking and Roundtable Events

Apprentice Benefits:

  • 50% Reduced College Tuition
  • 1:1 Mentorship
  • Industry-Recognized Certification
  • Industry-Trained Instructors
  • Free On-Site Mentorship Training
  • Complimentary 1-Hour Lean Manufacturing Training

Steps to Becoming an Employer Member

Steps to Becoming an Employer Member

Food Processing Companies We Work With 

You can view a full list of the 300 partnering employers AJAC works with here.

How Do I Get Started?

To get started, please contact Heather Collins at or 509-680-8966. You can also fill out our Getting Started Form by selecting “I Am an Employer” to submit your information.