As if our industry’s labor market isn’t already tight enough, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 3.8% in May — the lowest since 2000, and only a few other times in modern history. We are also being squeezed by baby boomer retirements, a strong economy and having to compete for skilled labor with other, better-known industries.
All this means fresh produce and floral companies have to work harder to attract employees. Major employers in our industry, including FreshPoint, know that internships and other student attraction programs can help ease the burden. And this attraction strategy isn’t just about the long game; internships actually pay off immediately.
Fall’s “back to school” season is a great time to start your internship program. Don’t know where to begin, or want to hone your program? Good news, help is available.
Why employ student interns? Short term, interns provide a cost-effective, temporary workforce that can boost your capacity and free experienced personnel for other priorities. Long term, consider internships a test drive to help you assess a person’s skills, qualifications and whether they fit your company’s culture. When the time comes to hire, you can make an informed decision.
FreshPoint president and CEO Robert Gordon says attracting and retaining talented individuals is vital to the continued success of one of the nation’s largest fresh produce distributors. Also a board director of Center for Growing Talent (CGT), Gordon has mentored several university students participating in CGT Career Pathways programs to attract top juniors and seniors to pursue industry careers.
“The student mentoring programs that I’ve participated in have allowed me to meet many candidates for internships or permanent roles who otherwise I would not have had the opportunity to meet,” Gordon said.
Furthermore, college campuses are viral communities. If your company impresses one class of interns, word about you will spread. This is particularly important to our industry, where unless today’s new talent grew up in agriculture they don’t think to look here for careers.
For help starting or refining your internship program, check out the new, free internship toolkit posted to the Resources section of Center for Growing Talent’s website at www.centerforgrowingtalent.org. The toolkit includes sample position descriptions, checklists and project plans. Through CGT, you can also post your internship offerings for free on AgCareers.com’s job board.
Internships can help generate much needed buzz with tomorrow’s workforce about what we already know: that the fresh produce and floral industry is a growing, diverse and dynamic community providing healthy, sustainable products that make a positive difference in people’s lives and the health of our world. That’s attractive, in more ways than one.
Alicia Calhoun is Center for Growing Talent vice president, talent portfolio. CGT’s mission is to provide industry-specific solutions to attract, develop and retain talent.