Foodservice Group Looks to Bust Student Misperceptions and Fill Talent Gap

Determined to recruit new talent, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association has launched an initiative to battle the perception that industry jobs are low-paying and dead-end.

Recognizing that its industry is facing troubling recruitment trends and a potential talent gap, the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association has jumped into action.

“We need the talent to engage and serve the industry going forward,” said Jennifer Tarulis, IFMA’s chief financial officer. “We work very collaboratively with our members and the supply chain, and we hear, overall, there is a need for talent.”

Responding to member concern about recruitment, the IFMA Education Foundation conducted a study to learn how two groups perceived the industry: foodservice manufacturing professionals and prospective students. There was a huge disconnect.  “People in the foodservice industry find it exciting, rewarding, challenging, [and] dynamic,” Tarulis said. “The perception of the students is that it’s boring, long hours, low pay, working as an order taker in a fast food restaurant. But that is really not what the industry is about.”

To close that perception gap, in February, the foundation launched the People Future 2025 initiative, which will use education and engagement to draw more students to the industry.

“We have to engage early and often in order to win students over,” Tarulis said.  And even if they win over students, they have one more party to convince. “A lot of it is educating their parents. They may say, ‘Oh my! Foodservices? I want you to be more than a bartender.’”

Part of IFMA’s work will be to overcome two misperceptions that students and parents often have: that there are few advancement possibilities and that foodservice is just restaurants.

According to Tarulis, the industry has a high need to for students with postsecondary degrees. “We have a variety of disciplines that we need in the foodservice industry. It’s not hotel and restaurant management. It is really the business of food,” she said. “We need engineering, with packaging and logistics; financial, with the accounting and inventory analytics. There is opportunity for research, both on consumer likes and trends, as well as food science research. Our scholarships have been going to agricultural colleges. Food from farm to table, we start all the way there.”

Right now, the initiative is still in the early planning stages, as the IFMA foundation team reaches out to students and develops best practices for engagement. The group is also talking to universities to determine the best approaches for interacting.

While the initiative has 2025 in its name, there are no deadlines or goals that must be completed by that date. Tarulis said the name sprung from a broader examination of where the industry was headed. “We want to change how we are getting to 2025,” she said.

(shironosov/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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