Jerry Bradley is director of the Co-op Programme of the Academy of Food Marketing at St Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He engages with businesses, in the US and increasingly overseas, to create on-the-job training opportunities for students on a five-year education programme. Bradley and a group of his students will be participating in the student programme at The London Produce Show and Conference on June 8-10, so we asked him to tell us a bit more about the course and its aims
PBUK: What is the Co-op Programme and what does it aim to do?
Jerry Bradley: The Saint Joseph’s University Food Marketing Co-op Programme is a five-year programme that leads to a Bachelor of Science in Food Marketing. In collaboration with industry, the Academy of Food Marketing aims to maximise job opportunities for graduating students. The programme allows students to alternate periods of classroom study with periods of paid employment in the food and allied industries.
Students receive three work experiences over the course of the five years for a minimum of six months each. The timeframe students are available to work is June – December once they have completed their third or fourth year in school.
Students are placed within top-tier companies in the food and allied industries including, retail, manufacturing, foodservice, operations, sales and marketing positions. Hiring from the Co-op Programme adds value to our food industry partners by providing them with skilled students who bring creative ideas to the work environment. This allows our students to apply classroom knowledge to real world issues within a structured work environment.
The job market is extremely competitive and we recognise that an undergraduate degree may not be enough to land our students their dream job. Employers are looking for exceptional candidates, who, besides a great education, have on-the-job experience; candidates who can hit the ground running without requiring follow-up training.
PBUK: Why is on-the-job experience and a wider knowledge of the international marketplace becoming so sought after by employees?
JB: Food today is sourced globally; especially when you’re talking about the produce industry. Hiring food-marketing students from our programme has proven to be a beneficial decision for companies across the food sector in the following ways:
• There are economical advantages to taking on a student on placement, as opposed to hiring a full-time employee;
• Experienced students who have undertaken other placements add creative ideas and different dimensions to the companies they serve;
• The organisation which hires the student is also giving back to industry, while gaining themselves; and
• Our programme’s engagement with the industry helps to prepare tomorrow’s leaders.
PBUK: How long have you been placing students overseas?
JB: The number-one Food Marketing Programme in the US has been placing students in international work experiences in Ireland and the UK since 2000.
Some of the companies that have employed Co-op students are Dawn Farm Foods, Bord Bia, Kepak, Moy Park, Dale Farm, Dairygold, Musgrave and With Taste Banqueting.
The Food Marketing Programme has shown significant growth over the last 15 years, from four students in 2000 to 125 students today. We are looking to place more students in international work placements, especially in the UK.
Food Marketing Co-op students are highly motivated in and out of the classroom. They transition successfully from daily college life into becoming tomorrow’s food industry leaders.
PBUK: Have you got any testimonials from businesses that have taken on your students?
JB: Yes, plenty, but here’s one from Tom McAloon, regional general manager, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. They don’t get much bigger than that!
“Our relationship with Saint Joseph’s Food Marketing Cooperative Education Programme has grown tremendously over the years. We have had students participate in projects in Category Management, Operations, Logistics, Merchandising, Marketing and Consumer Insights. We have found Saint Joseph’s students to be energetic, inquisitive, and eager to share new ideas about how we operate our business and compete in the 21st century.
“A Saint Joseph Food Marketing Co-op student will have a competitive advantage upon graduation because they have already been exposed to the challenges facing our marketplace and have worked side by side with executives on strategies that will make a difference.”