Finding future pet food hires in digital academia

Connecting with relevant academic programs to find potential future hires in the pet food industry has always been important. But how should it be done right now?

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Andrea Piacquadio |
Andrea Piacquadio |

Academia is getting quite the shake-up in terms of how it does business, particularly as the fall semester approaches with a continued increase in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Colleges and universities all over the country are releasing statements about the fall, incorporating everything from fully virtual course loads to hybrid curricula to alternate semesters on campus depending on graduation year. Everyone is trying to find a balance between education and safety, and as the class of 2020 was released into the workforce with little fanfare in May and June, the whole situation begs the question from a professional standpoint: How can companies get themselves in front of students right now?

Build connections directly with relevant academic programs

Internships have always been a way to connect with students who are within a couple years of graduating and might be interested in what you have to offer. But students have to actually be aware of those opportunities, and with digital education looking to be a significant part of at least the upcoming school year, it might benefit you to cast your net a little more firmly into academic programs you’d like to recruit from.

One way to do that is to increase communication between your company and whatever schools you have contacts with to ensure you’re taking advantage of whatever online connection resources they have to offer potential employers of their students. Still another is to look into opportunities that aren’t necessarily internships, but still 1) get you in front of students, and 2) provide the collaboration you’re looking for in order to evaluate said students who might be interested in working for you down the road.

Many colleges and universities have courses that build on in-class collaborations with relevant companies, and there are resources out there to help you make those connections. Riipen, for example, is a Canada-based online resource that helps connect companies with higher-education classrooms in order to build partnerships between potential employers and potential future hires.

On the employer side, Riipen allows companies to post business projects that might benefit from internship-type assistance. Then, those projects are available to educators using the site who are looking for real-life experiences as part of their in-class curriculum (professors can also post projects they hope to partner with a company on, and companies can search through that database as well as posting their own projects). Once partnered, students work on the project, companies get the results of that work and provide feedback for students as part of their portfolio.

If this sounds intriguing, it might be worth a call to your academic contact at the universities you already partner with to see if such a thing is viable in a relevant program for the coming school year. If you’ve never considered it before, using a resource that helps match you up with a classroom could open new avenues in terms of recruitment.

Other options for keeping the internship momentum

If physical internships aren’t a necessity for success in your company, you can always put feelers out for virtual internships. There are many websites offering to serve as the staging ground for making internship connections: WayUp, for example, allows internship-hopefuls to create their own profiles for employers to peruse. is specifically focused on students and offers free job posting for employers so interns can find them. And of course LinkedIn has resources for both posting and searching for internships, including virtual internships.

It’s going to be a difficult year for the close-to-graduating, to say nothing of the just-graduated. Through our Student Program at Petfood Forum each year, we’ve tried to do our part to connect the industry with potential employees just entering the workforce, and that hasn’t changed just because we’ve gone virtual for 2020 (Petfood Forum CONNECT, being held September 9–10 and 15–17, 2020). But we can’t do it alone, and there are many resources out there doing their best to shift to accept the current digital reality. Make use of us, and them, and together we can help keep the jobs coming in this difficult time.

Briefly: The benefits of hiring interns

Offering internships is one way to make sure students currently studying in relevant disciplines know the pet food industry exists as a career option! Here are some benefits of hiring interns, according to The Balance Careers:

  • Interns give a fresh perspective.
  • Hiring interns can enhance your social strategy.
  • Interns may become entry-level hires.
  • Interns provide an extra set of hands.
  • An internship program offers mentorship opportunities for your employees.
  • An internship program reiterates the importance of strong leaders.

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