The fresh produce industry has seen a significant increase in market and revenue in recent years, moving up from $63.6 billion to $72.3 billion in sales between 2019 and 2023. This increase in size and market also needs to be matched by a corresponding growth in the workforce for it to remain sustainable.
Yet with the wealth of employment opportunities in the construction, production, healthcare, energy, and hospitality industries, the produce industry is faced with a lot of competition in attracting new talent.
To attract talent, stakeholders in the fresh produce industry need to start by correcting common stereotypes, the most common being that the industry relies on outdated practices and is out of touch with the latest technologies.
Quite the contrary, the fresh produce industry is already capitalizing on emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) through Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions to make their processes more efficient.
Using an ERP solution like Silo, wholesale distributors, grower-shippers, and other key stakeholders can ensure visibility over the entire supply chain and streamline their day-to-day operations.
So how can growers and shippers working in the produce industry attract new talent? Lets go over the issues with the appeal of the industry as of now, and what steps can be taken to draw in potential employees and workers.
Why the produce industry looks unattractive to new talents
One of the main issues with the produce industry is that it does not appear glamorous or attractive to the average new graduate. There are several factors that play into this notion.
Lack of visibility
The produce industry is seen among many young talents as boring, monotonous, and involving a lot of hard work. Many also don’t understand what the produce industry is about, the economic value it delivers, and the fantastic jobs and opportunities available.
Most young talents also fail to recognize that there are HR, finance, and logistics opportunities within the industry, just like anywhere else. Those that do consider positions in the produce industry or starting up their own business usually have a friend or family member in the profession.
Despite the efforts made to market its products, the produce industry has failed to market itself at the same level.
For many years, the general impression of the produce industry has been one of temporary and low-paying employment opportunities. Naturally, young graduates and workers might avoid a sector if they think the income isn’t sufficient and there’s no guarantee for long-term employment and career-building.
But a report by Glassdoor shows that the average base salary in the produce industry is quite competitive, and fares quite favorably compared to other industries like the manufacturing industry. Employment opportunities are also not nearly as short-lived as they’re reputed to be.
Many of the processes in the produce industry are thought to be outdated. In particular, maintaining records, drafting invoices, and tracking inventory information manually using spreadsheets, or even workbooks is not attractive to millennials and Gen Z graduates who are used to technological solutions.
Those members of the produce industry that are still utilizing these old methods of maintaining their records must look towards optimizing their work and logistics processes through software solutions if they wish to change this impression.
What to do to attract new talents
The produce industry can compete favorably with other industries for college graduates and young prospective employees if efforts are concentrated on the following:
Embracing modern technology
Archaic processes and traditional working methods indicate inefficiency and stagnancy, neither of which new talents find appealing.
Grower-shippers should consider modernizing operations by adopting technologies that extend shelf life and adopting eco-friendly practices in packaging produce.
Additionally, adopting ERP solutions in processing payments, creating invoices, tracing lots across the supply chain, and producing insights from data is likely to attract new talents who want to update their skills and remain in touch with technological trends.
Helping people know what the industry is about
Businesses should invest in helping people understand what the produce industry is about and how they contribute to the economy.
This can easily be done through advertising campaigns that focus on blog posts, sponsored ads on social media spaces, newspapers, magazines, and explainer videos. Extra emphasis can be placed on highlighting the availability of the various work opportunities across different fields such as accounting, IT personnel, logistics managers, quality control managers, and safety officers.
Career fairs may also be organized in colleges so employers and prospective employees can meet and discuss the prospects and opportunities for growth in the produce industry.
Leveraging the benefits of working in the industry
The produce industry should consider leveraging its sense of community. For an industry that emphasizes community, health, and wellness, getting workers to do their part for their communities is a natural connection that can be promoted.
Major brands in the industry can promote the sense of fulfillment that comes with producing, supplying, and distributing rich and healthy fruits or vegetables to people.
Prospective applicants should understand that the industry is recession-proof. While some industries are fading out or completely overhauling their processes to cope with today’s fast-moving technologically-inspired landscape, the produce industry caters to a major necessity and cannot truly fall out of favour.
Finally, workers in the produce industry can pick up many transferable skills that can be used elsewhere. These skills include inventory management, data analytics, cloud computing, tracking using IoT-enabled devices and systems, transport management, and expertise in nutrition. There’s so many applicable skills that can be learned within the industry that it should provide plenty of encouragement to new workers looking to flesh out their resumes.
Work towards competitive pay offers
Pay is no doubt a big motive for career choice among young people. Fresh graduates and new labor market entrants want to be appreciated for their efforts in their work. The produce industry can attract many young, bright minds by making salaries more competitive and attractive.
Doing this will also ensure that the produce industry will no longer be seen as a “summer job”, or a position that’s used to stay afloat when financially indisposed.
Amongst the several factors and solutions offered towards making the produce industry more attractive to new talents, it’s important to recognize the role that Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software plays in doing so.
These solutions allow the produce industry to remain compliant with food safety standards and become more efficient in their processes. With community at the core of the fresh produce industry, these solutions help strengthen partnerships between wholesalers, grower-shippers, and retailers by promoting smooth communication between them all.
With these benefits, the user-friendly interface, and easy learning process, ERP software solutions are a key factor that produce industry professionals should be using to encourage and retain new entrants and workers.