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Last week, the Food Processing Suppliers Association’s Young Professionals Group conducted its first round of mock interviews for university students considering a career in the food and beverage industry. Early reviews are extremely positive, with YPG members reporting how impressed they are with the qualifications of this next generation of food industry professionals. And yet, it’s not easy.

Over the past ten years, as we’ve watched the baby boomers retiring in ever greater numbers, the need to recruit the next generation workforce has become increasingly urgent. This applies not just to the food and beverage industry but across the board, pitting employers of all sizes and from all industries against each other to attract good quality talent. Unfortunately, as we like to say in our office, we’re just not “sexy” enough!

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this industry. Absolutely not. It’s an industry that is practically recession proof, right? Not just that, average pay in food manufacturing is above average whether you’re a food scientist or in sales, production, maintenance, or any of the support positions in corporate. And finally, food manufacturing is done all over the country, so you don’t necessarily have to move for work. So, what’s the problem?

Perhaps we’ve been too busy feeding the world that we failed to bother promoting ourselves. Ask your average college student about their post-graduation career plans and, outside of the food science department, how many do you think will say food manufacturing? In a recent search, I found an interesting compilation of most popular careers – digital marketer, freelance online work, teacher, flight attendant, data scientist, and NGO professional – but no food manufacturers.

The truth is, for the most part, the next generation is not aware of the food and beverage industry as a promising career path. Luckily for FPSA, the Young Professionals Group had already identified this issue and is addressing it.

First, having discovered this industry more recently than some of us, members of the YPG understood this perception. They still remember what it was like to be on the outside and not know the wide range of careers available in food and beverage manufacturing. As such, YPG members initiated a series of interviews with media to not only personalize the careers in this industry but also highlight the variety of jobs that other young people might aspire to. This initiative was so successful that the YPG is now building a showcase booklet of careers that FPSA will share with Career Service Departments at prominent universities, as well as online, to build awareness of this career path.

For students already past this stage, the YPG is partnering with FPSA‘s Women’s Alliance Network on its Mentor’s Circle Program intending to help individuals create goals and shape their career path. With over 60 individuals in the first mentee class, many of which are college students, the Women’s Alliance and Young Professionals are working to help these future leaders take advantage of the opportunities before them.

No, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We all need to work on raising the profile of this industry to attract more Millennials. The YPG will continue to extend its network to universities throughout the country, while FPSA will continue to promote training, trade show exhibits, and additional courses to help the next generation visualize the opportunities that await it in the food and beverage industry.

For more information on the Young Professionals Group, these programs, or membership in FPSA, please reach out to me at any time.

Andy Drennan, SVP Food Processing Suppliers Association