So much of life is about the opportunities presented to us and where they can take us.

It is for this reason PMA A-NZ has developed a Careers Pathway Program designed to equip the next generation of industry talent and help forge the connections that will guide their future careers.

The Produce Marketing Association Australia-New Zealand Limited (PMA A-NZ) is the first stand-alone global affiliate of the PMA Global – the leading global fresh produce trade association serving member companies around the world in every segment of the fresh fruit, vegetable, and floral supply chains. 

The PMA A-NZ Career Pathways Program works with selected universities, with undergraduate and post-graduate students selected by their Faculty to participate in the program. 

Each PMA Career Pathways participant receives mentoring with an industry advisor to grow their network and attendance at industry conference educational sessions to develop an appreciation of industry trends and challenges. Participants are also required to complete a paper on an industry-specific topic as well as a recap of their experience. The Careers Pathways Program creates a supportive and intimate environment that fosters industry connection, personal development and camaraderie.

Boomaroo Nurseries supported the PMA ANZ Careers Program at Hort Connections 2019 hosting a speaker panel featuring industry leaders Woolworths, Perfection Fresh, Elders, BASF, EE Muirs & Sons, NGIA and Tarranto Farms.

Two of the current program participants are Elicia Jitming Lim and Ashna Gobin, who share their thoughts on the program and their recent Hort Connections experience.

Elicia – Bachelor of Food and Agribusiness

What inspired you to pursue a career in the industry?

My interest in Horticulture started as a hobby at home when I was about 14. The first plant I ever grew were sunflowers, and watching them grow from tiny seeds to bright, massive flowers that towered above me was something I will never forget. This led me to join my high school Gardening Club. My interest in horticulture and anything plant-related kept growing such that when it came time to apply for university courses [it was an easy decision]. After five years of studying a Bachelor of Food and Agribusiness, my dedication to pursuing a career in horticulture has remained steadfast.

What are some of the key values you got from the conference and also your mentors at Hort Connections?

My mentor on the PMA-ANZ Career Pathways Scholarship program was Helen Pakhomov, CEO of Greenfield HR Solutions. Helen is a Recruitment Specialist with a particular focus on the fresh produce industry and exactly the kind of mentor I wanted to be paired with. It was an absolute privilege to be taken under her wing for the 3-day conference. I was also able to connect with Nicky Mann, Chair of Protected Cropping Australia. Since starting my Honours project, I have been looking for a way to make contacts with PCA. I was so excited to see their stall at Hort Connect and meet her and have since applied for Student Membership with them.

 

What did you get out of the industry engagement session at Hort Connections?

The industry engagement session was very valuable and reminded me of how diverse a career in horticulture can be. From a graduate program with Elders, working as a grower, research in the booming agtech industry and even supply chain management (Fresh Produce) it was a great reminder that the industry is full of opportunities for interested horticulture students like myself. 


What excites you about the future of the industry?

What’s most exciting for me is that, out of all the industries I have ever studied, Horticulture is the only one I can really picture myself thriving in. I was also really excited by Boomaroo’s ‘Women in Horticulture’ talk. As a woman, I can’t explain how encouraging it is to know that the industry you want to go into is one that values and openly supports gender equality!


What would you like to bring to the industry?

Some cultural diversity/cultural intelligence. As an Asian-Australian born and raised in Sydney, I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced a mixture of cultures and to speak more than one language. My Dad is Malaysian and my mother is Indonesian, raised in Singapore and studied in the UK, before moving to Australia.

 

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the industry today?

Getting more young people and university graduates aware of the career opportunities in horticulture. In fact, when I approached my Careers Counsellor in year 12 about wanting to study something related to agriculture, they replied that they weren’t sure whether this was even offered at tertiary level. My high school also did not offer Agriculture as a subject. I believe a cultural change is needed.


What’s the most unexpected thing or most insightful point you’ve learnt about the industry?

That horticulture is very relevant to any and every person on this planet. Perhaps the word itself is not one that the average consumer hears/uses every day, but when explained, everyone knows what it is about (i.e. fruit, vegetables, seeds, plants, ornamentals, fresh produce and food). In that way, I’ve come to realise that really, no one can imagine a world without Hort. Which makes my future plans to pursue a career down this path, even more meaningful!

 

 

Ashna Gobin – Bachelor of Food & Nutrition Science 

What inspired you to pursue a career in the industry? 

There are many opportunities in this industry that I would like to pursue. My conversation with many industry professionals, including my mentor at Hort Connections, has inspired and encouraged me to pursue a career in this industry.

 

What are some of the key values you got from the conference and also your mentors at Hort Connections?

I really admire how the industry is working together to find solutions to current and future problems. Also, I now know the importance of new technologies and skilled professionals are to the future of this industry. This is a great opportunity for me and my peers. It has really made a positive impact on my future career and has also opened my eyes.

 

What did you get out of the industry engagement session at Hort Connections? 

I discovered a new world full of great opportunities and challenges that I would like to work in. I also met many industry professionals and made connections that I would like to maintain throughout my career.

 

What excites you about the future of the industry? 

The fresh produce industry is a growing industry. I am excited about the rise in the export market and consumer trends such as health-conscious, which are driving this industry and are forecast to increase in the next five years. I am also excited by the future product development side of this industry.

 

What would you like to bring to the industry? 

I will bring new ideas, innovation and creativity to the industry. I also would like to explore and advance the product development side of this industry.

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