WASHINGTON — United Fresh Produce Association's Research and Education Foundation here unveiled a new, first-of-its-kind training program for experienced executives working in the fresh produce industry.
The concept for the program was developed by members of the United Fresh Business Development Council, chaired by Mike Kemp, director of perishables for Save-A-Lot, St. Louis. The foundation teamed with Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., in developing a program specifically designed for produce industry executives.
What makes the initiative different is that it targets executives who have some years of experience working in the industry, officials said.
“It started off as kind of an internal search, strategic planning meeting of how United could become more member-centric, and one of the things that we talked about was education and development, and the fact that there's plenty of educational modules out there for the entry-level produce people in various associations,” Kemp said. “All offer something for training for those people who are just beginning in the industry, whether it be retail, wholesale distributor or the food service side of it. There really wasn't anything for that next level.”
The five-day program is designed for 40 mid- to senior-level executives and will cover such topics as effective executive and team decision making, management vs. leadership as a style, negotiation and conflict, and the economics of the retail and food service distribution channels. In addition, there will be hands-on activities including computer simulations of visits to local retail stores.
Before Jan. 15, tuition will be $4,995 for members of United and $7,995 for non-members. Tuition covers all expenses including classroom sessions, tours, receptions and hotel lodging.
With Cornell's experience in educational and professional development programs for executives in the food industry, Kemp said he is confident United will offer a first-class program.
“Cornell has had a long track record of looking into the perishables industry, produce in particular,” said Ed McLaughlin, director of the food industry management program and the Robert G. Tobin professor of marketing at Cornell.
McLaughlin described the partnership as an “optimal marriage” because of Cornell's research background in the produce industry.
“We're pretty excited to offer this education program and think it offers the right recipe at the right time for the industry,” he said.
Officials at United and Cornell expect the first session will attract executives from the grower and shipper community and the majority of the speakers will be comprised of Cornell faculty. However, selected guest executives working in the industry also will contribute to some of the case study exercises.
“I see this as a great opportunity for people that are taking on responsibilities and the operations for perishable and produce in particular,” Kemp said.
“While they might not hold the director of produce or vice president of produce position, they are an executive on that level that is also responsible for making sure the execution at retail gets carried through,” he said. “So, there's some in-house training that goes on for our executives and they are the future of the people that will then step into the role of director of produce. So it's sort of a strategic program, as well as one for further developing the people in the role today.”