When Jane Collin, 28, category manager at Sobeys in Montreal, heard her name called as the winner of the 2019 Next Generation internship at the Quebec Produce Marketing Association, she stood from her chair and made the rounds at the brunch, kissing the cheeks of her colleagues and mentors as she made her way to the stage.
The roar of applause from more than 400 people attending Saturday’s industry brunch at the August 8-10 QPMA Convention in Quebec City settled into a hum as Collin accepted the honor.
“I’m very emotional, and I’m very excited to grow with you,” Collin said at the podium. “We had to talk about ‘I, I, I’ in the interview, and it was very difficult because in this industry, we always say ‘we, we, we.’”
The Next Generation Network program was created eight years ago to recruit younger people into the association, and to award the winning candidate the opportunity to sit on the QPMA board for a full year and participate in all the activities and meetings, said Dino Farrese, QPMA’s outgoing board president and president of the Boucherville, Quebec-based Bellemont Powell brokerage firm.
“The purpose is for making sure that they really understand what the board is doing for the rest of the association, and to better understand not only QPMA, but the entire industry,” Farrese said.
The network is open to all QPMA members between 18 and 35 years old.
Outgoing intern Danny Boileau, 31, production director of Jean-Yves Boileau & Sons, paused and cleared his throat as he summarized his yearlong internship visiting five businesses and accompanying QPMA CEO Sophie Perreault to Parliament and policy proceedings.
He also discussed what challenges he faced beforehand to get to that point.
Boileau is a fourth-generation apple producer at the Havelock headquarters close to the U.S. border, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to work in the family business. In the fall of 2013, Boileau was deep in a major depression. He’s since climbed out of it with a mission.
“A few years later, I gave myself the responsibility to talk about this, to send a message of hope so people better understand the battle of mental health and what they can do in this industry,” Boileau said. “The past year, I was very surprised to be chosen. I gave all that I had. I think it’s up to this next generation to take these opportunities. It’s not just in your conversation, but in the way you integrate it into your life.”
Collin wasn’t sure the produce industry was for her either, initially.
At first, Collin wanted to use her bachelor’s degree in business administration, operations management and supervision at Laval University for the fashion industry.
But after graduation, she entered a case analysis competition on a logistics team. Metro was sponsoring the case, which was on the implementation of a produce warehouse. Collins’ team won and was granted the opportunity to visit the Metro warehouse and meet with people from the human resources department.
“I had the image of this industry as ‘oh, no, that’s not for me,’ but now I’ll never be able to step out of it. I really like it,” Collin said. “After my first week at Metro, you know when you have the impression that you just got shot with something and it’s there, in you? I’m someone who loves challenges, and I don’t think there’s anything more challenging than the produce industry.”
Collin knows the internship is just the first step.
“It’s a long-term commitment, and for sure one day I’ll be holding his position,” Collin said with a grin as she patted Farrese’s back. He laughed.
That’s how it all begins.
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