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Produce Business

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American Food & Ag Exporter

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UK University Researcher Surveys Students To Determine Future Pathways Into Produce Industry

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, November 30, 2015

Last year, we invited a British university to join our University Interchange Program, and the professor gave a fantastic presentation:

A LEAP ACROSS THE POND -Newcastle University Welcomed As First British School To Join University Interchange Program At New York Produce Show and Conference; Professor To Present On The Intersection Of Food, Technology And The Consumer

Now we invited him back for Round Two, and we asked Tommy Leighton, the Managing Director for the Pundit’s sister company in the UK, to find out more:

Diogo Monjardino de Souza Monteiro, Director of Newcastle University’s agribusiness programme, will be talking at The New York Produce Show about a project he is leading, aimed at matching skill-sets of students with the management requirements of businesses in the fresh produce industry.

Diogo Monjardino de Souza Monteiro
Director of Newcastle University’s
Agribusiness Programme
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Q: What led you to set up this project?

A: My contact with various organisations over recent times has clearly revealed the hunger for recruitment into the produce business but also a perceived lack of talent in the potential employee market. I had a meeting in September with a CEO and other executives of a major farming organisation in England, and they are very keen to work with us because, after doing the rounds of colleges, they felt that the students they had met had not impressed in terms of having the potential to move the company’s business forward. It’s obviously a clear problem, and one that I wanted to address as the director of an agribusiness programme at one of the country’s leading universities.

Q: How did you set about the task?

A: I effectively became a broker between the two markets, on the one hand the students and on the other the produce industry. I wanted to ask students what they knew of the industry, what skills they felt businesses need, what functions they believe there are to fulfill, what sort of working conditions would they expect; and at the same time I wanted to find out from business organisations exactly what they require from student recruits, what part do they think universities can play in preparing young people to enter their industry and how they feel graduates can play a part in growing their businesses. So, with the help of students in my university, I put together a survey that will hopefully provide enough data to help create a pathway for graduates to move into and then make an impact in the agribusiness industry. 

Q: What results have you had from the survey?

A: The survey questionnaire has only just been finalised, so at the New York Show I will be reporting on the preliminary results of the exercise. The survey has gone out to not only the student body in my own university but also to another 10 in the north and midlands of England, using not only student unions but also social media to promote the survey, and I’m confident that we will get a good enough response to provide some very useful data. On the business side of the exercise, it has been sent to around 600 organisations across the UK.

Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for the effects of the survey?

A: I hope that it will help to successfully bridge the gap between a student’s university education and training and the world of business, constantly building relationships between the two markets. As a university and a student body, we need to know what we are relating to, and vice-versa with the business community.

We need to think about people – at the end of the day businesses exist for people, and I believe that we’ve lost sight of that a little bit because of the ever-increasing focus on technology.

Q: How might those aims work in practice?

A: What we are already putting in place at Newcastle University is a way for businesses to scout students, to identify their talents early on and to have the chance to mold them into the sort of graduate employees they are looking for.

We are encouraging companies to come in and organise sessions to not only represent their businesses but also to provide students with slots of time for one-to-one discussions about possible internships or year-placements. This is giving the students an in-depth idea of how their career paths might evolve, while giving companies an idea of what kind of person is coming down from university, and what kind of person they can look to attract into their organisations.

It’s in my interest, of course, to help students find good jobs; but the interests of the produce industry in terms of the jobs market can also be helped with the sort of co-operation that I’m hoping our survey will encourage.

*****

All the industry is concerned with the next generation of employees. Where will they come from? Will they be equipped to the job required? Is the produce industry positioned to keep these employees and tend to their professional development?

In the UK, we’ve launched The Fresh Careers Fair to help facilitate the match between university students and the industry.

But the industry needs many more such efforts, and this study may be a foundation for a new generation of efforts.

Come to The New York Produce Show and Conference, and let’s discuss how to deal with the trade’s needs to attract and retain great people.

You can register for the show right here.

Last chance to let us know you want into the Foundational Excellence program right here.

We can still get you a hotel room; let us know your needs here.

And we offer travel discounts right here.

Come and see how similar, and how different, these issues seem in the UK as opposed to the USA.

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