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Nearly 40 students interested in the produce industry will experience Fresh Summit with career ambassadors this year at what will be the busiest event ever for the Center for Growing Talent.

The program for the students includes an overview of the business by a fresh produce leader; discussion from industry members about the challenges and rewards of the business; one-on-one conversations about what kind of job each student would like to land after graduating; and time on the trade show floor to meet people in that specific part of the industry.

Along with CGT encouraging young people to get familiar with produce and consider a career in the business, the organization urges companies to take that task upon themselves as well.

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One of the newest tools from CGT helps organizations prepare to offer internships.

“We know that companies that do internships have a fabulous hiring record and a good record of bringing new young talent into the industry, so it’s very important to our industry that companies think about that talent process,” said Margi Prueitt, executive director of CGT.

CGT will also be gathering information from industry members at Fresh Summit about why they stay in produce. People can write on a graffiti wall about their favorite parts of the job and why they stick around instead of going elsewhere.

CGT will then use the comments gleaned from that exercise to promote what it is like to work in produce.

“We’re going to have a big social media push with it because what we often hear from members of the industry is, ‘We’re just not a sexy industry. Nobody thinks it’s cool to go to work for a produce company,’” Prueitt said.

“We want to demonstrate to people that it is much better than we give it credit for and that there’s a lot of enthusiasm by people that work in the industry. We’ll use the quotes to talk about it in the media beyond the fresh produce industry.”

A board meeting, a 5K run and a Women’s Fresh Perspectives leadership breakfast featuring Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn are among the other activities on the CGT schedule this year.

More people than ever will have the chance to attend the breakfast because the Produce Marketing Association has greatly increased the size of the room for the event.

“We’re really excited about her,” Prueitt said.

“She’s really an extraordinary woman that has accomplished extraordinary things, including her foundation, which helps build strong young women, which certainly meshes well with the mission statement for the Women’s Fresh Perspectives portfolio.”

At its booth, CGT will talk with visitors about its internship tool and its newest offering, the Harvest tool, which helps companies evaluate their human resources programs.

“A company can really differentiate itself if their human resources is strategic and tied directly to their business strategy, so this tool will help companies assess where their human resources function is and help them identify where they want to go with it,” Prueitt said.

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