Newark, Del. — The Produce Marketing Association's Education Foundation will unveil an online recruiting tool — Produce Job Source — at PMA's Fresh Summit International Convention and Exposition, Oct. 12-15, in Houston.
Already there's been positive, and hopeful, responses from various sources in the industry.
The website's URL will be made available at the PMA Education Foundation booth in Hall B3 at the Houston Convention Center.
Business cards with that site's address and the address of generationfresh.com, a site that provides a comprehensive rundown on the produce industry, will be distributed there.
“Also, there will be demos. People can see how it works,” said Cindy Seel, the Education Foundation's executive director.
Seel explained that the idea for a job bank site has been talked about for quite a while at PMA. The foundation was formed in the summer of 2006, with one of its responsibilities being the organization of a job bank that would serve retailers, educators and students, and others in the produce industry.
Seel told SN that the first order of business was to research other job banks, and the research confirmed the need for what she calls this “niche career resource.” It is specific to produce-related jobs.
The career resource targets students seeking internships, as well as full- and/or part-time employment within the industry, and experienced produce professionals looking for new career choices. Produce Job Source will provide industry members with specific job searches and free resume postings, along with lots of produce industry and career-related information.
During the job bank's pilot stage, employers will be able to post jobs free of charge through April, and provide feedback to enhance the program. Afterward, the job bank will be offered at a cost-effective rate as a way to help employers find quality candidates.
“It's really an issue of awareness,” Seel said. “Most college kids have no idea there are jobs to be had in this industry that would be of interest to them.”
Some jobs are already posted. C.H. Robinson has some posted on the site, and one just came in from the food service arena, a produce position at Denny's, Seel said. Some resumes, too, are ready for posting on the site.
“[The Foundation's job bank] sounds great. I'm not aware of any other organization that's doing something just like this,” said Harold Lloyd, president, Harold Lloyd Presents, Virginia Beach, Va.
Lloyd, a former grocery executive and a consultant who works with supermarkets, said he hopes the effort works.
“They're certainly bringing us up technologically where we need to be. It's a good tool, but now it will be our job in the industry to treat the recruits right when they get to the supplier or retail levels. We can't just hand them a smock and box cutter and tell them to get to work,” or the effort will be wasted.
Another industry source, close to PMA, praised the job site launch.
“I think it's a great idea,” said Dick Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting Services, Monrovia, Calif., and a former food retailer.
“I worked with two college students last year and one this year for the Pack Foundation,” Spezzano said. “The students were very excited about the convention and the people they met. The exhibitors and retailers I introduced them to were interested in offering them internships or full-time jobs.”
The Pack Foundation was the inspiration, in part, for the PMA Education Foundation.
Supplier Jay Pack, who formerly owned Standard Fruit & Vegetable, Dallas, set up the foundation four years ago to enable high-achieving college students attend PMA Fresh Summit conventions and to seek mentors in the industry for them.
Spezzano is one of those mentors. “I try to educate them about our industry, introduce them to key people on both sides of the selling desk and encourage them to pursue employment in the industry,” he said.
This year, the Pack Family/PMA Career Pathways Fund will support 37 agribusiness and food marketing students, along with 10 academic advisors, as they participate in PMA's Fresh Summit workshops, general sessions and exposition, as well as unique programs tailored to them.
“The Pack Family/PMA Career Pathways Fund has consistently brought the best students and academics to experience Fresh Summit,” PMA president Bryan Silbermann said in a recent release. “As a result, this year we have unprecedented interest from the industry in meeting with the students. We are delighted to pair each of the 37 participants with an individual industry professional who has volunteered their time to offer advice, answer questions, and act as a mentor.”
Progressive retailers have long sought qualified workers who would consider a career with them in produce.
“I know Kroger has hired two of our Pack alumni, and Wegmans has one of our Pack students now on an internship,” Seel at the PMA Education Foundation said.
SN talked to an upscale independent retailer's produce merchandiser recently who said he thinks the biggest problem in the industry is the lack of full-time, qualified employees at the retail level.
The Education Foundation's efforts, Seel said, aim to remedy that situation. In addition to the job bank launch this year, additional outreach programs are planned, she said. Indeed, 50 schools in the United States are currently targeted for outreach.
“We are aiming to find the best and the brightest. This will benefit the entire supply chain,” Seel said.