Let’s start with a brief recap of what the ‘Food Industry’ actually encompasses; Agriculture, Manufacturing and Processing, Food service and Culinary, Retail, Education and Research, Marketing and Advertising, Wholesale and Distribution and Regulations. The industry employs millions of people worldwide, the global population is expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050—that’s a lot of mouths to feed—and pressure on the Food Industry to perform.
To bring it closer to home, 60,000 jobs will be created in Ontario alone in the Food processing sector by 2020, but demand out weighs supply in a ratio of 3:1.
Recruitment is an area that poses some major challenges to the industry. Due to advances in technology and innovation, the skills required are unique and specialized and not enough young people are pursuing a career in food, therefore there is a shortage of the skills the industry needs to thrive.
Lack of awareness and skills
People think the only option is to become a chef when they think of jobs in the sector, or that farming is all about throwing on some wellies and milking cows. The majority of young people that pursue food as a career have a family member or friend in the profession, otherwise they just don’t think about it. A spotlight on the different professions within all areas of the Food Industry is well overdue. When teens start thinking about work in the future, food needs to be part of the discussion.
Food Scientists, Food Technologists, Researchers, Engineers, Quality Assurance, Production Management Process Engineers, Line Operators etc. are all in-demand and will provide graduates with well paying employment opportunities and long term careers. The skills shortage is growing and noticeable in the food industry, across all sectors. We need young people to embrace the industry—taking pictures of food is great—but the interest needs to extend further and deeper than that!
We need specific skills in Product Development & Innovation (ideally in baking). We can find Food Science but the mix of culinary PDI is difficult” Suzanne Pottinger, VP Employee Experience, The Original Cakerie
Industry trends, innovation and workplace expectations
Trends in food play a role in how much attention a food employer gets. Steve MacIntyre, HR Director at Gardein shared
Due to our reputation as a good employer and the ‘on trend’ market we’re in (plant based products) Food Science grads come to us regularly”.
Employers who are not willing to innovate from a product and technology perspective limit themselves; recruiting talented young people will be even harder. Studies on millennials, who within the next 5 years will make up half the workforce, have highlighted the changes that organizations need to make in order to compete.
When you factor in that our employees are asked to work shifts that start as early as 4:30 am and finish as late as 2:00 am, in a refrigerated environment, well it just makes things more difficult” Steve MacIntyre, HR Director, Gardein
Without attempting to meet some of the demands millennials have voiced, recruitment will remain a huge and ongoing challenge. Employers need to move forward and create an industry that young people are attracted to. Millennials have expressed a desire for ongoing training and development, however, it’s widely discussed that employers are reluctant to invest in training for fear of losing employees once they have made that investment, but this attitude quite frankly means the industry is shooting itself in the foot.
Not investing in training and development means that not enough people have the skills and experience the food industry needs to be competitive” Luis Garcia, Chair, Conestoga College.
The Recruitment Cycle Takes Time
It takes months to source, interview, hire and train new employees. Recruitment is a huge challenge for small to medium food industry employers especially—and there are a ton of them in this sector—who do not have designated HR/recruiters. Not only is this a specialized process that not everyone has experience and training in, but hiring mistakes are extremely expensive. Investing in new talent and having enough people to ensure productivity is crucial to the success of the business, but the time it takes to recruit remains an enormous challenge and requires a juggling act of priorities.
There is no time to review lots of resumes (especially unqualified candidates), matching of skills to job requirements and cultural fit are our biggest challenges” Shawn Boodhram, General Manager, Marsia Foods
Graduate recruitment strategies, internships and co-op programs take time to develop and implement but their importance cannot be stressed enough. Increased ‘hands on’ experience is key for developing necessary skills and knowledge, plus grads are much more employable if they have some experience under their belts. Unfortunately, unless you are one of the ‘big guys’ in the industry, the benefits of a graduate recruitment program are not on the cards (visit FoodGrads.com to see how you can change this).
Awareness of career paths, skill shortages and the time it takes to hire are challenges facing the food industry
From a global perspective the industry can do better to address these issues–it’s a powerful industry and has a voice–but is it being used effectively with regards to recruitment? Working in silos, competing for market share without an attitude of collaboration regarding the bigger issue of attracting people to pursue a career in food, simply means everyone suffers, from hiring managers to consumers.
There has never been a more exciting and important time to pursue a career in food, the future of food depends on it, don’t you think?