Labor Secretary Acosta Begins Discussions on Workforce Training

July 7, 2017

By: Matt Foley
Senior Manager, Government Relations

Recently, NGA’s president and CEO, Peter J. Larkin, was invited to meet with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to hear about the importance of workforce training and discuss opportunities within the independent supermarket industry. Acosta is a former member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who authored more than 125 opinions during his tenure and was previously appointed by President George W. Bush in 2003 to be the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

As one of his first initiatives at the Department of Labor, Secretary Acosta is promising to help usher in a new generation of leaders ready to help companies thrive in a fiercely competitive 21st century marketplace. It’s an important mission that goes hand-in-hand with NGA’s dedication to helping the next generation start their careers in the grocery industry and become well equipped to lead the independent supermarket industry forward.

There is no doubt that this tech-savvy, multi-tasking generation has transformed consumer shopping patterns and buying trends, but their perspective and views don’t just stop in-store with a purchase – it affects how they view and perform in the workplace as well. As a generation that grew up with technology, millennials take a collaborative, unstructured approach to the work they do, and not, surprisingly, engage in multiple networks and platforms. A 2014 study, conducted by NGA, titled “Determining Potential Career Paths for New Hires” found that one of the most important pieces of attracting and retaining management talent must include a vision and strategy among management staffing, as well as a well-conceived workforce plan that includes a career path.

In the not-so-distant past, finding food retailing industry management candidates simply meant writing a job description, posting the position on the company bulletin board, running newspaper or trade publication ads, and then waiting for the right candidate to apply. But today, it’s different – our culture, personal goals, technology, and even social media have dramatically changed the hiring and recruiting landscape.

According to the “NGA Supermarket Industry Student Career Survey,” most students looking to enter the food retail industry get job and career information from college professors, current and past jobs or internships, career fairs or company websites, family and relatives, and college courses. The lowest rated sources of information were written materials, career counselors, and career centers. The most important factors students consider with employers are opportunities for long-term career advancement, competitive salary and benefits, and world-life balances. More than half of students expect their starting salary to range between $50,000 and $74,999 annually.

Food manufacturers and CPG companies have some negative perceptions working against them, however, with the nearly half of students worried about the industry’s prestige, salary levels, working hours, and physical working conditions.

These are important challenges the industry must face head-on, though it’s clear we’re not alone. Secretary Acosta has signaled his intent to help nurture the next crop of America’s leaders. As the operators of family-owned or privately held businesses, independent grocers understand that leadership and training programs will be critical for the growth of our next generation. NGA is working to provide those tools and resources to ensure our industry is full of candidates who will continue to help independent grocers innovate, grow, and give back to the communities they serve.