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Last night, a very good friend brought a young man to my house for me to meet. Joaquin is 24 years old and was recently laid off as part of downsizing in the tech field. Speaking with him, I realized that under better economic conditions (let’s say two years ago or hopefully a year or two in the future), this kid would have the world on a string. Smart, well-spoken, bi-lingual, a degree in IT Management from Central Michigan, and with strong experience in coding, I could envision many companies vying for an employee like this, but in today’s job market he is now facing competition from the thousands also recently laid off in this sector. Frankly, it reminds me of the late 80’s when just getting an interview was a challenge.

My son Patrick, also 24, joined in this conversation. Having graduated two years ago with a degree in Marketing, he was acutely aware of competition in the job market. Already on his second job and not happy with his prospects, he is starting to investigate a path that I suggested a few years back – a career in the trades. It’s not about money or some wild expectation about running marketing for some big company. No, it’s simpler. He doesn’t want to work behind a desk. Having heard my stories about the FIT Program and the careers that await these young people, he thinks that might be a path that could meet his needs.

I explained to Joaquin that most young people never think about going into the food industry, at least here in Northern Virginia. I told him that this industry is essentially recession proof, thanks to our selfish need to eat. On top of that, with the Great Resignation and the continued retirement everyday of baby boomers, manufacturers (of either food or the equipment that produces it) have been scrambling for the last few years to hire people who know how to work with their hands. And this will surely continue for many years to come.

I told him of the most recent graduating class from the FIT Program, with one member hiring EIGHT new technicians for their plant. I’m no expert in that company’s operations but I would lay odds that even they still have a ways to go before solving their labor needs.

The more I spoke, the more I could see the lightbulb going off in his head. Will Joaquin go into the FIT program? No, I don’t see that at all. My point to him was that this industry is steady and offers tremendous opportunities. He did hear that part and is thinking about how he might fit into this industry he never considered before.

In the meantime, FPSA and its members continue to grow the FIT program with each new class and as we look ahead to opening other campuses to meet the urgent need of service technicians. This is great news, not just for the industry but also Gen Z, who in a recent survey expressed interest in blue collar jobs. A sample of these findings includes:

  • One-third of Gen Z’ers plan to pursue a blue-collar career,
  • 1 in 6 may switch from a white-collar career to a blue-collar career, citing fears of AI’s effect on office jobs,
  • 28% of those planning to go to college will pursue online education, with 43% going to community college or trade school.


We’ll see if this actually comes to be, but regardless, FPSA will continue to grow our population of technicians as this need is not going away. After all, we gotta eat, don’t we?


Andy Drennan