“We are pragmatic. We are purposeful. We are ready—and we have some questions for you.”
This is the sentiment DMA volunteers heard loud and clear last week when we were lucky enough to join nearly one hundred top students and 30 industry leaders from across the country for the 2018 Immersion Academy hosted by the Center for Growing Talent by PMA. The two-day event gave students an overview of the fresh produce and floral industries, including insights into the vast job opportunities they present for this group of students.
Center for Growing Talent 2018 Immersion Academy in Dallas
Dressed in business casual attire and sporting lanyards that included their names, majors, and schools, each of these students came eager to learn. During our time with the students, we heard a common theme emerge: more than anything, this group of talented individuals—only months away from entering the workforce—wants purpose and passion in their careers.
Thanks to the industry leaders who gave their time to share and reflect with the students, many left realizing the amazing potential of the produce and floral industry. The unique approach of the event allowed for attendees to learn more about marketing, production, supply chain and logistics, and science and technology. We have no doubt that many eyes were opened to the diverse potential that lies in choosing a career in fresh.
Here are some of our key takeaways from the event:
These students are ready to dive into their careers, and they are looking for inspiration!
Over the course of the event, a number of students made a point of connecting with the DMA team to share how inspiring they found the keynote speech by our very own Dan’l Mackey Almy. One student, Gabrielle Ernestina Cardenas, UT-Dallas Supply Chain Senior, shared:
“I found Dan’l’s advice to ‘seek the why’ to be particularly compelling in our search for the right company. Very few times in my college career have I felt this much genuine support and guidance from company representatives. I will remember the lessons and advice from each person involved in Immersion Academy; thank you!!”
Today’s students are incredibly interested in work surrounding particular areas of agriculture.
Each segment of the Immersion Academy allowed time for students to ask questions of industry professionals. Without a doubt, there were always questions related to organic, sustainability, food waste, and consumer education.
During a discussion about production, students were eager to hear what happens to produce that doesn’t meet specifications for retailer packs—does it just get thrown away? When they learned that this produce can be repackaged or repurposed for other uses, a sense of relief palpably overtook the room.
Know that these are hot topics for upcoming grads that fresh produce professionals should focus on in recruiting efforts (and leverage in marketing efforts!).
An understanding of the “why” behind a company’s mission is as important as ever.
It’s no secret that millennials and Gen Z-ers are altruistic and seeking to make a positive impact on the world. When recruiting, be sure to show them how their role fits into the larger picture. Sharing your company’s mission, purpose, and core values will make it easier for recruits to feel confident in and dedicated to a career choice in fresh.
They are curious about trends.
When this group hears about a trend or movement, they typically are intrigued and eager to learn more. There were a number of students curious to know what “locally sourced” food actually means, for example. While this particular question doesn’t necessarily have a clear-cut answer, it is encouraging to know that rather than taking a statement like “local” at face value, this crop of students is ready and eager to dive into the substance behind it.
They understand the importance of change.
This goes beyond altruism: these students understand the importance of change, as well as the value that approaching a new situation or problem with this mindset can bring. During our time joining the production and marketing discussions, we heard industry leaders stress the importance of innovation and embracing constant change. The great news is that this group of future professionals is ready to embrace new ventures alongside your company.
About half of the students in attendance had a background in agriculture, and the other half was clearly eager to learn more about an industry to which they’ve had limited exposure. It was clear to us that providing students with a “zoomed-out” view of the industry—and then zooming-in to their specific role—was an especially effective approach to introducing students with limited ag experience to the vast and varied opportunities available in the field.
Having the opportunity to connect with so many inspired soon-to-be graduates was not only fulfilling but encouraging. We witnessed so many “a-ha!” moments during which students suddenly had something “click” in terms of a career in fresh possibly being the right fit, even if they’d never considered that possibility previously. Every student we spoke to exuded gratitude and curiosity, both of which are hallmarks of successful people in this industry. We could not be more pleased to report that this group of talented individuals is truly looking for a career about which they will be passionate—and they too are beginning to see that there may be no better place for them to find that than in fresh!
“This industry is different. First, we don’t just happen to have a spot for you: we have a real need for you to join us as we work to increase demand for fresh produce, which has an undeniable positive net result on society. It is true that we are just learning to tell our fresh story and verbalize our mission and purpose, but this is for sure: there is an inherent goodness here, and we would love for you to be a part of that.”
Attended the Immersion Academy and want to share about your own experience? Leave us a comment or reach out to us on Twitter at @TheCoreBlog!