Food Processing Industry: Time for Change is Now

The issue of attracting young people to positions in the Food & Beverage Industry is a hot topic. Last week I attended ‘Attracting Millennials to Careers in the Food and Beverage Processing Sector’ an event hosted by Centennial College for the City of Toronto.

Guest speakers Faith Baxter, Eli Cadesky and John MacLaughlin outlined career paths, new technology and innovation in the industry as well as data to prove that Food & Beverage is a clear winner when it comes to considering a career path due to its continued growth (particularly in the beverage sector).

At the start of the event 61.4% of young people in the room said they were considering a role in the Food & Beverage Industry. At the end the room was asked to cast their vote again and 90.7% said they would!

Age of the current workforce

One of the major takeaways I had was that the average age of people across the food processing industry is 52 (in Toronto it is 48).

Now is the time for action. When these folks retire a ton of employment opportunities will be available, employers need to start employing young people now to develop and train.

Will there be enough people interested in these careers and are employers ready for them?

Original Post

By the year 2020 it’s estimated that half the workforce will be made up of millennials.  It’s time to start caring about what they care about when it comes to work, or you will be left out in the cold–they won’t choose you, they’ll choose your competitor who got with the program!


We know that the food industry faces challenges in recruitment.  Skills shortages and not enough people pursuing a career in food makes finding talent hard enough, but if you are not prepared to make your organization appealing, you will be left behind. According to research for every 3 jobs available, there is only 1 qualified graduate.

Now is not the time to say “We’ve always done things this way!”, that mindset is outdated and quite frankly it’s organizational suicide.

How to Appeal to Millennials

It’s an exciting time for food. With innovation and technological advances the industry has never been more compelling but does your organization reflect this? If not, you need to make some changes;

10 changes you can make in the workplace to appeal to Millennials:

  1. Flexible hours (I understand a role within a plant/processing facility has it’s limitations)
  2. Consider project/consulting assignments. This is something some of the new workforce are interested in as opposed to full-time permanent positions.
  3. Shared vision/pride to be part of something bigger than themselves.
  4. Keep them inspired with new ideas/products-provide feedback
  5. Philanthropy / People are more important than profits!
  6. Review your current age demographic within the company and make sure Millennials are represented. Young people will attract more young people ‘Birds of a feather, flock together’.
  7. Less Hierarchy more keeping them involved and part of the solution
  8. Leadership opportunity / need to feel nurtured.
  9. Raised on Praise-they are driven by recognition.
  10. Training and development / they want coaching not to be micromanaged.

Most of these ideas will not actually affect your bottom line drastically, they will, however, attract talent that will increase productivity and profits as well as encourage people to stay with your organization–instead of looking for something better.

It is NOT about the Money

Surprisingly money is low on the list of reasons why people leave an organization, of course, you need to be fair and make sure your employees feel valued–be sure you are paying them within the average salary range for their particular role. (Glassdoor make this information available for everyone to see!)

Even addressing some of these ideas will be a step in the right direction–I can’t stress enough–if you don’t make changes now to appeal more to Millennials, your business will be a thing of the past!

Have you made some positive changes that you would like to share?  Do you have any comments or suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

Related FoodGrads blog: How to Attract Millennials

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