Last week WAEF students got a rare insider’s glimpse into the operations at Allan Brothers, CMI Orchards, McDougall & Sons, Washington State Fruit Commission, Northwest Horticultural Council, Good Fruit Grower and Washington State Tree Fruit Association. 16 students took advantage of this truly unique opportunity to spend a day learning about the breadth of careers present in the tree fruit industry.
Our Yakima group began the day Wednesday at Allan Brothers. There they met with individuals in human resources, finance, grower accounting, IT, engineering, instrumentation, food safety, worker safety, horticulture research and maintenance. Employees in each of these areas shared about their own career paths, education, typical days at work and thoughts for those wanting to enter the field. Students were divided into three groups with company managers assigned to each group to move groups from department to department while visiting with students about observations.
The Yakima group then traveled to the W.L. Hansen Building to visit with representatives from the Washington State Fruit Commission, Good Fruit Grower, Washington State Tree Fruit Association and Northwest Horticultural Council. Here students learned about the roles of industry associations, the size of the industry and the spirit of cooperation that has contributed to the industry’s world class status. Individuals presenting during the afternoon shared how their jobs support the industry and how similar positions are present within the individual warehouses and marketing firms of the tree fruit industry.
Wednesday we were joined by a couple of WAEF alumni now employed at Kershaw Companies. Lauren Gonzalez and Flor Maldonado shared about how their internships while in college led them to return to the tree fruit industry after graduation. Lauren was a participant on the first WAEF Career Tour three years ago; that experience led her to her internship at Kershaw Companies.
Thursday began the tour for Wenatchee area students. Students spent the day with CMI Orchards and McDougall & Sons. Here they learned about many facets of marketing from graphic design to packaging, domestic and international sales, finance, IT, food safety, QC and instrumentation. Students got to experience the brainstorming process when a new product is launched and take a tour of the new McDougall & Sons facility (robotic pallet stacker was the highlight!).
The Wenatchee tour ended with presentations from WAEF volunteer and board member Chris Willet and WAEF alumni and volunteer Nate Rubio. Nate shared about his role at Washington Fruit & Produce as the HR manager for 50+ ranches and the growth of the role of human resources in the tree fruit industry. Chris is the Operations Manager for Enza USA. He shared about working for a smaller company that gets to interact with several leading producers and strive to stay ahead of the curve with quality and consumer preferences.
There were some key messages we heard repeated from multiple speakers on each day:
· The importance of networking and the many ways involvement with past employers, co-workers and others will surface throughout a professional lifetime.
· The company you work for and the industry matter just as much, if not more, than the actual “work”. Several speakers talked about how much they appreciate getting to represent a healthy product and the value they place on working for a good company.
· Technical computer skills will be used day in day out. Students were encouraged to learn Excel, especially.
· Career paths were frequently jagged. Employees we visited with were in their current jobs because of connections and skills they developed after challenged to rise to overcome new obstacles or solve new problems.
· The jobs of today will look completely different in five years. At McDougall & Sons students were asked to observe work underway and imagine how they could increase efficiency with new machines and tools.
We were delighted with the students present; each were wonderful representatives of the foundation all of our donors should take pride in. The challenge we have yet to overcome is increasing their numbers on the career tours. Through student input and trial and error we’ll continue to make changes to the career tour offering with the goal of increasing exposure to the amazing opportunities present in the tree fruit industry.
Our thanks to each of the presenters that took time to prepare concise, thoughtful presentations, deliver with excitement to students and help inspire the next generation. Special thank you to the site organizers Autumn Bernier and Karissa Brandhagen (Allan Brothers), Kate Woods (W.L. Hansen Building), and Linda McFarland and Katharine Grover (CMI Orchards) for all of their efforts organizing logistics and presenters.