Foodservice Equipment Reports

Recruiting Talent To Our Industry With Fun

Mike Whiteley has goals and a vision. The Hatco executive, a good friend of many of us, was installed as president of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers over the weekend in New Orleans during the group’s Management Workshop and Annual Meeting. He takes over from Tom Campion of Franke who, among other achievements, was the first NAFEM president to front a rock band. Campion did a great job moving the association and the industry forward during his tenure. We should all drop him a note of thanks.

Now it’s Whiteley’s turn. He outlined the goals for his term, which he based on conversations with the board and other industry leaders, during his inauguration speech. He came up with five. Some of them are what you would expect of a NAFEM president: Grow The NAFEM Show, which funds not only the association, but much of the education and activities of the E&S industry; serve the membership; and remain faithful to NAFEM’s foundation as an association created to benefit E&S manufacturers in North America.

But he detailed two others I think dealers will find particularly pertinent. One is working on channel efficiency and relations. “Our industry has not maximized the potential benefit of a focused and healthy distribution channel,” he said. “We must reach out to our partners and propose a unified agenda, one that we all benefit from and one that we all believe in. I don’t know how successful our efforts will be. I do know that a renewed effort will be made, and we will all benefit from it. Manufacturers, dealers, reps, consultants and service agents must all move closer to full alignment in order for this industry to continue to grow and succeed.”

But Whiteley and NAFEM as an organization also want to focus on a very important goal that is critical to all of our futures: recruiting talent to our industry. I’ll let him explain the issue and the initiative:

“Just look around this room; our industry is aging. We all know what a struggle it is to attract young people to work in our industry. We must compete with high-tech industries that young professionals perceive to be more interesting. Most young professionals want to work for Apple, Google, Yahoo, eBay or the like. Sadly, some of us are surprised when we talk to a young professional who expresses a strong interest in selling pop-up toasters or managing a fab shop in a remote industrial park.

“In the years ahead, we must find new ways to promote our industry as a viable and enjoyable career path. We all know this is a great industry to work in—and one with many rewarding relationships and experiences. Food is fun. Our challenge is to share our treasured secret with future generations. The NAFEM board and the NAFEM staff have dozens of great ideas relative to this effort. I am excited about the amount of energy that is growing around this initiative. I think many of you will be pleasantly surprised by the ideas and initiatives that will flow out of NAFEM over the next two years. I credit Tom Campion with getting this ball rolling during his term… I know we can do even more. I remain passionate and committed about moving NAFEM forward in this area.”

Anyone who knows Whiteley, and most of you do, will note the emphasis on fun. Later in his speech he brought it up again.

“If this industry really wants to attract new talent, we need to break a few molds. We need to motivate change.  We must make it fun, and we must keep it fresh. I ask that all of you promise to help me with that. For goodness sake, try something new. Tell a joke today, make someone smile. Have fun with what you are doing. Life is too short. This is a fun industry—so dammit, start having more fun!”

Bringing new, young talent into our businesses and industry is a goal all of us must pursue. We’re looking forward to helping Whiteley, NAFEM and all of you with this goal.


Robin Ashton


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