When it comes to recruiting new talent into the fresh produce business, the National Careers Service says it’s time to go back to basics. Trudy Nieto, Delivery Team Leader for North London, gives PBUK the lowdown on how employers can market themselves to both youngsters and career changers.
Why should the fresh produce, retail, foodservice, hospitality and culinary industries be thinking seriously about recruitment?
It’s very competitive out there. You’ve got to really think about how to market yourself and your industry to be attractive to the job seekers of the future. The food industry is so exciting and diverse, so there’s every opportunity. But many people don’t quite understand all the different routes into the industry or the job opportunities available. The food industry is massive and within one company there could be a broad range of opportunities. So, think about targeting schools, colleges and universities. But also target the career changers and over-50s too.
Where are the current recruitment gaps?
It’s regional to some extent. In London, possibly we’re seeing fewer gaps than other parts of the country. Also, Brexit could affect the food industry more than others because it employs a lot of foreign workers, which could leave some companies vulnerable if they don’t act now. But we do have people in this country who want to work; as long as they are willing to develop their skills and employers are willing to support them. The main thing is to identify transferrable skills or flexible attitudes.
How can the food supply industry tackle recruitment?
It’s time to go back to basics. Work with local job centres, local colleges and schools etc. to plan the way forward. The profile of the food supply chain industry needs to be raised. Local advertising could work very well, as well as working with the careers advice industry to get local referrals. Employers could even get involved in college courses.
As a company you’ve got to be really open to diversifying your approach to recruitment. If you’re not able to adapt, you’ll get left behind. So, think about how you can evolve and seize chances to recruit. This is a great opportunity for the industry to get creative and sell itself. For example, employers can attract people and recruit digitally now. A lot of jobseekers find positions through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, so take social media into account.
Is The Fresh Careers Fair effective?
It’s essential. Being face to face with job seekers of a high calibre is the best environment for recruitment. It’s your opportunity to showcase who you are as an organisation and your job opportunities. Another advantage is being able to learn from and network with other employers within your industry.
The Fresh Careers Fair has really grown and because it’s sector-specific it gives a real sense of what the industry is like. Plus, students and jobseekers come knowledgeable and prepared; having really thought about what they can offer employers, and what job areas they are interested in.
My advisers love The Fresh Careers Fair; they find it both an interesting and rewarding day. Beforehand, we look at which companies are attending, what they do and where they’re exhibiting, so we can inform and guide the students and job seekers on the day. Our advisers can make introductions to any exhibiting companies too.
How else can we inspire young people to work in the food supply sector?
As the industry is not so well-understood, internships are a really good option. Employers can also arrange work placements to give students a taster. You can go to schools or colleges to offer a one-day or one-week placement at your company. Alternatively, think about offering work placements to the unemployed through local job centres. It shows that you’re really investing in your staff and willing to take on others to give them a taster of the business. And often, if a student does a work placement as part of their university course, they tend to secure a future job for when they graduate, so it’s a win-win all round.
What should employers look for in new talent?
Remember that you can ‘grow your own’ talent. Take on someone if you feel they have the right attitude and you can see how you could develop their skills and inspire their career path. This is where apprenticeships come into their own.
Also remember that different aged people bring different qualities and skills. Even the older age bracket of 50-plus years is a growing area of recruitment. Employers mustn’t discount the value of this age group as they bring stability and reliability to the workforce, and they offer punctuality, common sense and customer service skills. They also benefit younger workers, as they can be mentors or fill supervisory roles.
What does the next generation have to offer?
Both digitally and technically, a lot of young people are very aware nowadays, which is beneficial. But you mustn’t think everyone is like that. In every generation there are those that love the outdoors or more physical jobs, while some people haven’t had much computer experience or just aren’t that digitally minded. Some even say that the younger generation have a shorter attention span. So, think about how all of these differences might influence they way they work or the way in which you will need to train them. Also, many young people benefit greatly from mentoring. Training, in general, is a good way to develop staff of any age. I’d encourage any employer to promote a skill-sharing environment in the workplace.
How can the National Careers Service help employers?
We are always open, and we are very happy to promote the food industry. The best approach is for employers to contact us to let us know what is happening, the jobs that are available and also to share information about the industry and its labour market itself. The National Careers Service covers the whole of England through various regional centres, so we can list jobs both regionally and nationally. Wales and Scotland have their own version of the National Careers Service too.
The Fresh Careers Fair is the recruitment event for the fresh produce, retail, foodservice, hospitality, and wholesale sectors, plus their related service suppliers.
Any organisation looking to attract the next generation of food and drink professionals by taking part in the 2018 edition on 8 March in London at The Kia Oval, should email Linda Bloomfield.