Tracy Malmos, Morgan Levy, and Alejandra Salazar Discuss Mission Produce's Summer Internship Program
OXNARD, CA - As members involved in this vibrant industry we are all, by default, advocates for the long-term success of fresh produce. The responsibility to plant the seeds for a prosperous future rests squarely on all of our shoulders, and Mission Produce is one such champion for this collective cause, nurturing fresh produce enthusiasm through its top-notch internship program.
These lucky internship participants aren’t glorified coffee runners, Mission Produce plans a comprehensive experience for each intern to secure a brighter future for the industry as a whole. I connected with the Mission team to discuss the innovative program, which is just kicking into gear for the summer.
“Our CEO, Steve Barnard, along with the entire leadership team, sees the great value in having a well-defined internship program. Each leader is actively involved in providing the exposure and experiences needed to ready a college student for a successful career,” Tracy Malmos, Chief People Officer, shares about the program. “We established an internship program several years ago, and each year we continue to refine the program to make it more relevant to the business and to the students enrolled. Our mission is very simple; we are seeking the best talent available to help us meet our global growth goals.”
This year, Morgan Levy, HR Business Partner, is coordinating the program from start to finish. She provides a unique perspective, as she completed the internship herself in 2015 and was hired on in August.
“The program is very flexible and provides ample opportunity for interns to explore different career paths. Interns are welcome in every department throughout the organization, so they can see how everything comes together to create a successful business,” Morgan says. “One of my favorite initiatives is the Field to Fork Competition. Over the course of the summer, participants build a twenty minute presentation to give to the executive team, demonstrating the field to fork process. I actually won the competition during my program, and the video I created is used in the organization’s on-boarding process, so it’s invaluable to see the real-life business applications of the interns’ work.”
Alejandra Salazar, Regional HR Manager, joined the conversation to reiterate the value of the valuable experience the internships provide.
“Last year one of the interns created a book, and Steve Barnard loved it so much that he had 1,000 copies printed and distributed to local schools,” Alejandra says. “We also tend to hire people who come out of the program. We see great success from these employees, one of our past interns is now our Director of Global Quality, and another is a Production Manager. The program really sets up participants for success.”
Each year, Mission Produce makes a huge investment in this initiative; offering competitive wages, housing, gym memberships, and more to attract top talent from schools like Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cornell University, UC Davis, Texas A&M, and University of Oklahoma. But, the ROI the company sees more than matches this major undertaking.
“We measure our success by the number of students we hire and retain over the years. During the past two-years we had 21 interns and we will have another 8 interns starting this month. We have hired a high percentage of the seniors from the program who are now working in Sales, Marketing, Sourcing, and Human Resources. Of those hired in this two year period, we have had no turnover,” Malmos adds. “Because of the success of the internship program we can proudly say that our exempt workforce is made up of approximately 60% millennials. Additionally, the interns that we hired in past years have been promoted into significant leadership positions throughout the company. Having the internal talent ready for promotion is our best measure of success.”
As Mission Produce continues to grow rapidly, it also continues to see new possibilities; and the company has a pipeline full of talent to take advantage of the opportunities which carry it towards the future. As Malmos concludes, the company has had major success hiring top talent through the program, providing the company with new and creative ideas, and fostering the perfect environment to see success in fresh produce, together.