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I saw a great piece last week about attracting Gen-Z to manufacturing jobs. I am particularly interested in this topic for two reasons.

On one hand, last year we launched our first FPSA Career Fair on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, which I think all involved would agree it was a great learning experience, as well as setting up many young people for their first job coming out of college.

On the other hand, as a father of a Gen-Z’er who graduated college last year, I am intimately aware of how their decision-making process differs from my own. I don’t mean this in the judgmental way I might have had about ten years ago. No, with the Great Retirement and watching baby-boomers exit from our workforce on a daily basis, it has never been clearer how much we need this next generation and perhaps, how some of their differences are actually advantages for the company that best understands how to leverage the skill set of this generation.

Taking a higher paying job, but boring, does not fit into his equation. In fact, I would lay odds that Gen Z’er’s who do that do not stay long in such a position. In short, pay or “how much” is not necessarily the driving factor for these young people. More important is the “what”, the “how” and the “why”.

What is the job?

Is it meaningful?

What type of technology will I be using?

What can I learn?

Will someone mentor me?

What does this company stand for?

Nothing too strange or out of the ordinary there. They want to do something that is important to them, knowing that could full well change in the future. That’s ok.

Last October, it was my pleasure to speak to the students at IIT who attended the Career Fair, and like I said above, it was a learning experience. I walked away from that event even more convinced that we in the food industry have a duty to promote our industry as a stable, positive career, and guide this next generation as to the many paths they can take within it.

Following up on this Career Fair, FPSA has already been in touch with Purdue, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Missouri S&T, Oregon State and IIT to collaborate on their hiring events this spring. With one already having happened (remember college seniors will be graduating in 3-4 short months), the calendar is busy on these campuses. Whether you are looking for engineers, food science graduates, IT, or sales and marketing personnel, I’m sure you’ve seen the competition for good young talent is fierce. I encourage you to get out to some of these schools to meet with students and see what they have to offer. You’ll see it’s quite a bit.

Unfortunately, if you wait for them to find you, you’ll be waiting for a very long time.

Andy Drennan, FPSA SVP