For the past five years the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Foundation Career Pathways Program has worked closely with a few select institutions from around the country to introduce high-achieving students to business leaders in the national produce industry. We are pleased to once again report that UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) remains a steady supplier of that student talent to the Career Pathways Program, in particular students from the Sustainable Plant and Soil Systems and Applied and Resource Economics departments. This year three CAHNR students will attend the all-expenses paid Career Pathways Program, which is built into the annual New England Produce Council Annual Conference, to be held in Brewster, Massachusetts from September 20-22. As in past years, students selected to participate in this year’s program were nominated by a faculty member. This year’s participants are Jacob Gardner and Bryan Jackson, both juniors and horticulture majors, and Scott Caggainello, a senior majoring in applied and resource economics.
The intensive three day Career Pathways Program provides students with an unprecedented up-close and personal view of the food and produce industries. From industry economics presentations by leading business consultants, to in-the-field excursions to grower and retail operations, to one-on-one mentoring by executives currently working within the produce industry, the PMA Foundation Career Pathways Program offers selected students a one-of-a-kind opportunity to reflect on their career path while opening up career development possibilities that they might not have previously considered. The Career Pathways Program and the NEPC Conference conclude with an annual trade show that the students are required to tour like their own personal career fair. The students are free to meet and talk with numerous vendor representatives and other insiders from the food, beverage and produce industries, who share with them some career development and even résumé enhancement tips.
The CAHNR and the PMA Foundation Career Pathways Program connection is an excellent example of collaboration and partnership between industry and academia in that students have the chance to apply and further develop numerous skills during their program experience including skills learned in the formal classroom and soft skills that they can acquire through programs offered by the UConn Center for Career Development. Further, the students are able to establish long-standing networking relationships with their PMA industry mentors, PMA Foundation staff, and students from other universities that are selected to attend the program.
Hopefully the CAHNR-PMA Foundation Career Pathways Program connection will continue for many years to come, thereby providing future UConn students with a rare opportunity to experience career development skills building in a very unique and personalized setting.