by Cindy Sorensen/Founder, The Grocery Group
I’ve just returned from five very full days at the National Grocers Association (NGA) Show. This show has always been my favorite grocery industry trade show. NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry.
I may not know every attendee personally, but I feel I have so much in common with them, and I am so indebted to them, as they taught me so much about the grocery industry. I spent the majority of my 37-year industry career working with independent grocers and wholesalers.
One of the reasons I enjoy the NGA Show so much is the college student programs they support. One of the highlights of my time at the show is spending time with the students from the 14 Food Industry University Coalition (FIUC) schools that participate in a case study competition while at the show.
The students from these 14 schools receive a case study from NGA at the beginning of the school year. They prepare this case study and present it to industry professionals who comprise the judging panel. Every year, I am impressed beyond measure by the talent pool represented on these student teams. While only one team will go home designated as the winner, there is a slim margin between all the teams.
If you attend the NGA Show but have never sat in on this competition, I highly suggest you make it a part of your agenda at the NGA 2021 in Las Vegas.
These students can represent the future of our industry. What can our industry do to attract, inform, recruit, hire and retain them? One opportunity that exists at the show is pairing these college students with industry mentors who provide insight into the industry and possible career opportunities. Too often, college students are not aware of the careers available in the grocery industry.
We often refer to our industry using broad terms such as the “grocery” or “retail” industry. Without much awareness of what that encompasses, a student might have a limited perspective of the careers that are available. At a time when unemployment is low and there is a high demand for a qualified, diverse workforce in every industry, we need to change the language we use when promoting careers within “grocery.”
We know students are interested in careers in technology, analytics, nutrition, consumer research, sustainability, management, marketing, sales, logistics, manufacturing, e-commerce and many others. We have every one of those careers—and more—available within our industry, yet that isn’t the language we often use when talking about grocery industry opportunities.
In addition to industry trade shows, such as the NGA Show, there are many opportunities within our own communities that can connect our industry to college students who might want to know more about the careers we offer. What might you or your organization do to help attract, inform, recruit, hire and retain the next generation of employees and leaders for our industry?
Sorensen’s Grocery Group has a mission to “develop leadership in purpose, people and products” with a specific emphasis on the grocery/consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. The group also develops programs to connect grocery industry professionals to colleges and universities to help attract, recruit and retain a talented workforce in a competitive employment. Reach Sorensen at [email protected]