Nothing stays the same in the produce industry. With technology changing almost on a daily basis, it’s imperative that you and your company keep up with the latest industry trends.

No one realizes that more than the major produce trade groups and even some of the regional organizations. That’s why they’ve come up with a wealth of programs designed to help their members stay on the cutting edge.

Produce Marketing Association has a series of programs that make up a “career continuum” covering early, middle and senior stages of one’s career, said Margi Prueitt, senior vice president and PMA Foundation executive director.

The education program begins with a Clear Pathways program that introduces college students to the produce industry.

About 50% of those who have completed that program and have graduated from college have come into the produce industry in an internship or a job, Prueitt said.

“It’s a wonderful success story,” she added.

The Emerging Leaders program is geared toward young leaders and is conducted in partnership with the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz.

The Emerging Leaders program is intended for employees who companies consider “rising stars” and likely will be future leaders in the organization, she said.

Participants should fall in the 27-35 age range, have been in the industry for five or 10 years and have a cross-functional background.

“We’re getting ready to start our fourth program,” Prueitt said.

The program also in includes a webinar before and after the training and graduation at Fresh Summit.

“It’s really a yearlong program,” Prueitt said.

The next program is scheduled for April 6-10.

The program is limited to 36 participants per year.

Scott Leimkuhler, sales manager for Progressive Produce Corp., Commerce, Calif., took part in PMA’s 2012 Emerging Leaders Program.

“It was an invaluable experience,” he said. “It gave me a broader perspective of the industry and where I fit in the global food supply chain.”

“I have better awareness as to how I can make a difference and how I can make things better,” Leimkuhler said.

In January, PMA conducted its two-and-a-half-day 2014 Executive Leadership Symposium in partnership with Cornell University. The symposium offers senior executives an opportunity to “discover how to harness the innovation and changes taking place to confidently position their companies for a competitive advantage today.”

Other educational programs include the Women’s Fresh Perspective Conference in partnership with Simmons College, which this year is set for April 27-29 at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix, and the High Performance Management Conference in partnership with the Thunderbird School of Global Management coming up in September.

LeighAnne Thomsen, marketing manager for Oxnard, Calif.-based Mission Produce, got her first taste of PMA’s educational programs when she participated in the Career Pathways program in 2010. She now is co-chair of the Women’s Fresh Perspectives Advisory Committee that hosts events that offer networking, motivational and educational opportunities.

It’s a well-rounded program that’s accessible for women from every department of a produce company and has something for women ranging from those who are new to the industry to industry veterans.

For information on any of these programs, visit pmafoundation.com.

The United Fresh Produce Association offers a Produce Industry Leadership Program for produce industry professionals who are “ready to take the next step in their leadership journey,” said Shannon Young, education manager.

The program, established in 1995 and made possible by a grant from DuPont Crop Protection, has graduated more than 200 alumni.

It features extensive involvement from professional trainers, faculty, United Fresh members and DuPont executives and focuses on developing four core areas:

leadership development;

business relationships;

governmental and public affairs; and

media and public communication.

“The leadership program provides solid foundational knowledge about the issues and challenges facing our industry, as well as practical tools to help individuals improve leadership skills at a formative stage in their career,” Young said.

Customized educational sessions enable participants to learn the essential skills they need to be successful, she added.

Classes are limited to 12 participants.

Whether touring fields and facilities, traveling together in a bus or problem solving in a classroom, Young said, “Participants learn some of the most important lessons and skills from each other.”

For more information, contact Young at 202-303-3400.

The United Fresh Produce Executive Development Program, presented in partnership with the Cornell University Food Industry Management Program, is designed to help produce industry leaders sharpen their business acumen and executive skill set, Young said.

The intense five-day course is characterized by “cutting-edge theory, industry best practices and thought-provoking discussions about critical business issues affecting the global produce industry,” she said.

Dean Taylor, director of foodservice sales for Mastronardi Produce Ltd., Kingsville, Ontario, took part in the United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program and termed the experience “extraordinary” and an “incredible value.”

Cornell professors outlined best practices and benchmarks, and he said he received unprecedented opportunities to collaborate with industry members.

“I learned things from friends in the fruit industry that I otherwise might not have sought out to get information,” he said, and learned “how world-class companies run their organizations.”

Taylor was so impressed with the experienced that Mastronardi Produce has made a commitment to send someone through the program each year.

“The Produce Executive Development Program is about learning, generating ideas and sharing the unique perspectives of its diverse group of participants,” Young said.

The course, which is limited to 40 participants, is tailored to fit the unique goals of its participants and is designed for mid- to senior-level produce executives.

“If you are in a leadership position, under consideration for a leadership position and/ or involved in your company’s strategic planning and execution, attending this course is one of the best decisions you can make,” Young said.

The course, which will take place from March 9-14, currently is full, but interested parties can contact United Fresh regarding the 2015 program.

In Southern California, the La Mirada-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council has opened the application process for its first yearlong Apprentice Program, said Kelly Craner, who handles sales and marketing for B&C Fresh Sales Co., Orange, Calif.

Craner and Andrew Bivens, salesman for Westlake Produce Co., Los Angeles, are co-chairmen of the Apprentice Program committee.

The program is designed to offer industry professionals who have less than seven years of experience and who have not yet joined the ranks of middle management an overview of the supply chain and a close look at what makes the produce and floral industries tick, he said.

The program will reflect on a regional level what PMA and United Fresh are doing on a national level, he said.

The program will include a wide range of activities that likely will involve education sessions and tours of processing plants, distribution centers and other facilities in the Southern California area.

Participants will be chosen from among industry professionals recommended by FPFC member companies.

Each participant will have a mentor who will partner with the applicant during the year-round program.

Applications will be accepted through March 1. The first class likely will have about 10 members.

The group’s first meeting, a program overview, tentatively is set for May. The graduation ceremony for the first class will take place at the FPFC dinner dance in January 2015.

The FPFC will fund the program at no cost to the participants other than transportation to various events.

For more information, visit fpfc.org.