Management-level professionals in the pork industry now have an opportunity to strengthen their leadership and business skills through a two-year certificate program developed by the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Executive Pork Producers Program, or EP3, is the first program to help pork industry owners and managers improve their company’s bottom line. This focused, intensive program is designed to teach skills that can impact business practices from day one.

EP3 is modeled after the award-winning Executive Veterinary Program in Swine Health Management, a program designed for veterinarians that began in 1991.

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

With input from these swine-health leaders, 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 and Jim Lowe, DVM, 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 the animal production industry. 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. Their combined contributions have served the global pork industry in 20 countries on issues related to swine health and management.

The new program’s structure follows that established by EVP, which means participants meet in Urbana, Ill., every other month on a Thursday and Friday for a total of 10 sessions. Each session features a leading speaker on topics such as increasing employee engagement, optimizing profit and building efficient production systems. Between sessions, participants complete assigned work and continue a dialogue with classmates and instructors via electronic means.

The new program starts in November 2011 and runs through May 2013. Cost, registration, dates as well as other information are online at ExecutiveProducersProgram.org. Enrollment is limited to 40 producers to ensure close interaction among participants and instructors. Tuition for registrations placed by July 5 is $7,500; a $500 deposit is due at the time of registration. EP3 graduates will receive a certificate in business management.