NEWARK, Del. -- As part of a new industry initiative, 24 college students enrolled in food and marketing programs, and six faculty advisers will get a first-hand look at careers in the produce business during the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit this month.
Courtesy of the Pack Family/PMA Career Pathways Fund, students from six universities and faculty advisers will attend Fresh Summit and "get immersed in it," said Bryan Silbermann, president of the PMA.
This marks the first year for student and faculty participation in Fresh Summit as part of the new career program, established last year to serve multiple goals. The program aims to introduce promising food and agriculture students to the industry and bring college instructors up to date on trends, products, issues and essential skill sets for future industry leaders. Setting a foundation for future efforts that will position the industry as an employer of choice is another goal of the program.
At Fresh Summit, students and faculty members will get a comprehensive look at industry trends and meet key players, including members of the PMA board, key exhibitors and leadership groups and mentors. They also will go to the PMA Fresh Produce Academy industry overview session, and attend the exposition, general programs, workshops and networking sessions. Several members of the PMA board will share anecdotes on how they broke into the field, during an interactive seminar on Oct. 16, the second day of the Fresh Summit convention and expo, scheduled Oct. 15 to 19 at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center.
"The point is to reach out to those schools and leading students and offer them opportunities in the produce industry," Silbermann said. "This is part of PMA's commitment to building the future workforce."
Four students and a faculty member from each of the six schools will attend the show. Participating schools this year include Cornell University, the University of California-Davis, Michigan State University, Texas A&M, California Polytechnic State University and St. Joseph's University.
The fund was set up with financial support from Jay and Ruth Pack. Jay Pack was chairman of PMA's food-service board of directors from 2001 to 2002, and served on the PMA board of directors from 1997 to 2002. He is the former president and chief executive officer of Standard Fruit and Vegetable Co., the Dallas-based fruit and vegetable distributor founded by Abe Rutchik, grandfather of Ruth Pack. Standard was acquired last year by Fresh Del Monte Produce.
Establishing the program was the family's way of giving something back to the industry, Jay Pack said shortly after the initiative was announced.
"The Pack and Rutchik families have been involved in the fresh produce industry for many years, and we know first hand of the importance and value in bringing new talent and fresh ideas to the workforce," Pack said in a statement.
"We know it can work. We saw how our company was able to recruit talent from an agricultural college and that's proved to be an ongoing success. Now we'd like to see that success translated throughout the industry."
Representing a multi-year commitment, the fund will cover expenses related to attendance and participation in Fresh Summit.
Each year, PMA will review the various colleges and Jay Pack, along with PMA leaders, will decide on eligible institutions to take part in Fresh Summit.