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Editor's Plate: Food Companies Should Hire the High-Tech Unemployed

March 3, 2023
With so many layoffs in the technology world, maybe food plant jobs are looking attractive.

I am a fan of two-birds-one-stone scenarios. I've used them before in this column. This month I have a new brainstorm. Here are three current problems in business:

  1. The food & beverage industry is having a hard time finding any talent.
  2. The food & beverage industry is increasingly automating and needs to take at least a few steps toward Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things.
  3. Recent months have seen a flood of layoffs at high-tech companies.

You see where I'm going?

It's been a tough couple of months for technology companies. Alphabet (Google) laid off 12,000 workers. Meta (Facebook) cut 11,000. Even IBM, which has been in business for 111 years, is cutting thousands of jobs. Maybe it's not exactly tech, but Amazon's 18,000 ex-employees know something about delivering products.

Microsoft sacked 10,000 employees – you could finally have someone who understands Office 365 and Teams!

The point is, there are suddenly thousands of workers on the street with credentials and experience you probably wouldn't see as ideal for your company ... but maybe you should.

And it's not just the recently laid off, tech-experienced you should be poaching or pitching; all the above layoffs plus the arrival of artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT, which may eliminate jobs in the future, may be causing college students and recent grads to rethink the pursuit of a high-tech career. Maybe they'd be interested in a blue work-shirt with a while collar.

“Fearing an AI Takeover, 1 in 6 Gen Z’ers May Switch to Blue Collar Careers,” said the headline of a survey report from Intelligent.com, an online information service for education, particularly students. In February, the site surveyed 1,000 students between the ages of 16 and 26. Some of the bullet points:

  •   82% of tech majors are concerned about layoffs; many are shifting career goals.
  •   One-third of Gen Z’ers plan to pursue a blue-collar career.
  •   1 in 6 may switch from a white-collar career to a blue-collar career, citing fears of AI’s effect on office jobs.
  •   Half believe AI will replace at least one in five white-collar jobs over the next five years.
  •   28% of those planning to go to college will pursue online education, with 43% going to community college or trade school.

All of which takes me to this month's cover story. The Factory of the Future is not going to be built or staffed by people with the same skills that have served the food & beverage industry so well for the past 100 years. Now's the time to find some Gen Z'ers.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.