By Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO, FMI, the Food Industry Association

AssociateThis Labor Day, several dramatic elements are coming together in a way that should give the food industry new reasons to celebrate this holiday.

Let me set the stage for you.  The first dramatic element is a powerful back drop that has been established by the food industry’s heroic performance throughout the varied ups and downs, ins-and-outs of the pandemic.  Regardless of what got tossed our way – new safety protocols, upsurges in demand, shifts in grocery delivery -- the food industry responded and has proven faithful to the task of keeping communities fed by being steadfast, resilient, flexible, and dedicated.  The nation has noticed and, as a result, respect for those laboring in the food industry is at an all-time high. There’s definitely some love out there for the industry.

The second element is a significant plot twist that is going to heighten the drama in the labor script.  The federal government’s unemployment benefits are set to expire on Labor Day, leaving millions of unemployed Americans searching for their next career come this fall. 

That brings us to the third dramatic element, which is the character development aspect of the drama we find ourselves embracing.  One of the many indelible marks the pandemic has left on the American psyche is a soul -searching reflection about the nature of work and the causes in which we wish to invest our time and talent.  Individuals are thinking more deeply about where, how, and why they work.  They want a job that pays well and has the promise of personal development and professional advancement, but they also want their work to mean something, to  somehow contribute to the greater good.  They want to love what they labor at and feel their efforts make a difference.

The piece that remains for the industry is to put all these theatrical elements together in a groundbreaking way, a way that helps the employment-searching public recognize that the food industry has developed well beyond being the place of “starter roles” and has blossomed into a complex vocational system with career opportunities in a multitude of areas.  Those who still consider grocery work to be can-stacking need to be enlightened that the food industry now has technology career paths, diverse openings in health and wellbeing, and increased opportunities in personnel management, financial administration, logistics proficiency, and culinary expertise.  And that’s just the beginning of the list of employment possibilities our industry is seeking to fill.

Many FMI members are making significant headway in re-shaping the way food industry careers are perceived by making noteworthy investments in educational opportunities for their employees.  Others are designating significant budget dollars to increased employment benefits, intern programs and educational incentives.  Several member companies frequently make the list of “100 Best Places to Work” and thus help improve the industry image as not just being the place where careers begin, but a place where careers are made. 

Examine and invest in the future of work with us through insights, training and education. The next act in the food industry labor drama is about to begin. Is your company ready to have the spotlight thrown your way and play an award-winning role?