Following successful steps towards encouraging careers and recruitment within the fresh produce industry, The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers will extend its support again this year, with the offer of two internships at Berry Gardens and G’s Fresh and up to three cash prizes for students, plus a prestigious Under 30s Award for young people already working in the fruit industry.
Incoming Fruiterers’ Awards Council chairman Chris Newenham, who is joint managing director of Wilkin & Sons in Tiptree, Essex, tells PBUK these competitions will be offered alongside other opportunities at The Fresh Careers Fair, the annual fresh food and drink recruitment event which the livery will sponsor again on 13 March.
“The Fruiterers recognises that careers and recruitment are a very important area in fresh produce,” explains Newenham, who has taken over from Graham Collier, the outgoing Awards Council chairman interviewed by PBUK last year. “We’ve chosen for a few years now to focus our attention on this area.”
With the Brexit cloud looming large, Newenham notes that the most acute concern for the produce industry at this point in time is securing a viable and consistent workforce, without which businesses will be unable to drive forward at the pace that they would like.
“Attracting the highest calibre people to our industry is essential for it to continue to thrive and grow,” he says. “There is such an enormous breadth of opportunities for entrants; it is essential that we continue to promote these and encourage talent to look in our direction.”
To that end, the Fruiterers has garnered the generous support of Berry Gardens and G’s Fresh to offer two internships, which will be awarded this year.
“We’re looking for candidates who are currently in education, considering a career in the industry, and would like the opportunity to experience life first-hand in a produce-related business,” Newenham explains.
The winners will receive a week-long, all-expenses-paid internship, including accommodation and travel. Entrants will need to submit to the Fruiterers a written pitch about themselves and their career aspirations within the fresh sector, including why they want to work in the industry, plus what they feel they have to offer.
Last year’s inaugural internship offered by the Fruiterers was provided by G’s Fresh and awarded to Sam Brook, who is now looking towards a long-term career in the produce industry.
“We had a fantastic applicant from last year’s Fresh Careers Fair who had the opportunity to spend an all-expenses paid, week’s internship at G’s,” explains Matt Price, the Group Head of Learning & Development at G’s Fresh.
“We were delighted to meet Sam Brook, who had the opportunity last summer to explore the farming and supply chain aspects of our business. The team at G’s really enjoyed meeting Sam and commented on how enthusiastic they were about fresh produce and what we do here at G’s.”
As well as the two internships, this year the Fruiterers is offering up to three £1,000 cash prizes.
“Through The Fresh Careers Fair, we are engaged in a forum that reaches out to a wide range of students, which provides an excellent opportunity to interact with our target audience.
“The Fruiterers has an expert selection committee that will rigorously review the applications to deliver outstanding award winners at the end of the process.”
Last year’s cash prize, sponsored by Berry Gardens, was awarded to Reading University Agricultural Business Management student Jed Knaggs, and presented at Fruit Focus 2018.
“Jed was chosen because he submitted a fantastic application which was rigorously assessed,” Newenham explains. “The quality of his candidacy really stood out.
“He was very well supported by his academic tutor, who supported the work he was doing – studying the effect of temperature and photo-period on the yield of June-bearing strawberries under LED lighting for out-of-season production.
“We felt Jed was worthy of the award, and I sincerely hope he is now looking forward to a fulfilling career in the industry.”
Under 30s Award
Added to that, the Fruiterers is actively seeking 2019 nominations for its highly valued Under 30s Award, which recognises young people who have made a significant contribution to the fruit industry and advanced or improved the business in which they work.
Applications must be submitted by 30 April to [email protected], and the winner will be announced in mid-June, following a tough assessment process led by the Fruiterers’ Awards Council and a team of leading academics.
“The Under 30s Award is very important,” points out Newenham. “It offers great kudos for the winner. You are being endorsed by a leading industry body, which is a significant early endorsement on your CV.”
Newenham says candidates should be working for a UK-based supplier, not in college or university education, and not more than 30 years of age.
“They should be developing a career in the fresh produce industry, working with fruit and/or fruit-related products, and making a significant contribution to the sector having undertaken a project or projects that have advanced or improved the industry,” he explains.
The last Under 30s Award was won in 2017 by Andrew Barclay (pictured above) of Berry Gardens, an ecology graduate who, thanks to his enthusiasm for insect ecology, has been instrumental in improving the knowledge and understanding of pests affecting soft fruit and stone fruit crops to the benefit of growers within the Berry Gardens network.
Nuffield Farming Presentation
Meanwhile, in November, the Fruiterers expects to organise its second Nuffield Farming Presentation for horticulture and agriculture students.
“This was a really useful forum for students to hear directly from the people involved in the industry to understand the breadth of opportunities available,” Newenham explains. “It also served a useful purpose in terms of enthusing students and engaging directly with them.
“The three speakers generated a lively discussion that was not only about careers in fresh produce, but in agriculture more generally.
“Two of the speakers, Doug Hutton-Squire and James Smith, have been supported by the Fruiterers, as indeed I was some years ago. They gave a fantastic overview of their experience of the Nuffield Farming Scholarship and their experience in the industry as a whole. It was really insightful for the Writtle students.
“In addition to the two Fruiterers-sponsored speakers was Tom Bradshaw, an arable farmer from Essex. Tom is a very notable Nuffield scholar and current chairman of the NFU combinable crops board.”
When it comes to developing a career in farming, food, horticulture, rural and associated industries, Newenham says the Nuffield Farming Scholarship offers another “exceptional opportunity” which presents career-enhancing prospects.
“It’s unique,” he says. “You get to network with your cohort in the first instance, who are drawn from far and wide in the agriculture industry, so there are a lot of diverse and interesting characters.
“Then the global Nuffield network opens more doors than you’d ever imagined possible. It’s a wonderful journey. It forces you to take time away from your business; to step out of the day-to-day and to see the bigger picture.
“I think it offers you a perspective that you might never have imagined otherwise.”
The Fresh Careers Fair
All of these opportunities will be promoted by the Fruiterers at The Fresh Careers Fair on 13 March, which Newenham describes as an excellent forum worthy of continued support.
The livery will sponsor and exhibit at the fresh food and drink recruitment event for the second consecutive year, and is keen to see the initiative flourish in the future.
“It’s important that we continue to play a central role in supporting the wider [fruit] industry,” Newenham says. “We hope that as a result of the platform which the event provides we will encourage a new cohort to think about the many opportunities which our industry can offer.”
Given the range of students and job seekers who attend The Fresh Careers Fair and the spread of their abilities, the Fruiterers believes the event is a good opportunity for the produce industry to broaden its appeal to a wider student audience who may not have considered the sector in the first place.
When it comes to further supporting the produce industry’s quest to recruit and retain talent, Newenham says nothing further is planned this year, although the Fruiterers always keeps an open mind.
Meanwhile, during the next few years, the livery will place a broader focus on healthy eating (particularly with regards to obesity), climate change and the application of technology.
“These are three areas that we’ve identified as being extremely important,” Newenham announces. “I’d love to reveal more, but that’s for another day.”
Newenham says this may include the Fruiterers lending support to research, as well as other relevant industry-related endeavours.
On the subject of climate change, the Fruiterers already has an ongoing interest in the work of Tobias Lane, a Reading University PhD student working in conjunction with the team at Brogdale, home to one of the largest fruit collections in the world.
“Tobias is studying the effects of climate change on apples,” Newenham states. “He’s looking at apples in a warmer world.
“We are very open-minded in terms of the work we’ll support, provided it has relevance to the fruit industry. The Awards Council meets in February when we’ll look at funding priorities for the coming year based on the opportunities that are presented to us at that point in time.”