Although they had slightly different target audiences, both had a common theme 'Securing the Future'. They featured the usual business topics such as developing sales and securing new business opportunities. There was lively debate about improving your product range, driving innovation and better communication with your customers.
All interesting topics in their own right but by far the most talked about and most avidly debated talks at both events centred on how we in the food and horticulture sectors go about attracting the range of high-calibre people that we'll need to thrive in the future.
That's what my talk centred on a recurring theme, but one that won't go away without some positive action. Anyone who doesn't know the food sector might wonder what all the fuss was about aren't there just hordes of graduates out there looking for work?
Well if there are they aren't all rushing to knock on our door. Anyone looking at our website will see the range and number of jobs we've got.
From the day we started, 11 years ago, we've always had more vacancies than suitably qualified candidates. So what is it about food and horticulture that makes it so hard to attract people? Is it an image problem? Is it a cultural thing? Or is food just something that we take for granted in this country, something we all need but not an industry that many would ever envisage earning their living in?
Those of us who have spent all our working lives involved in the food and fmcg supply chain know what great career opportunities there are in it, but it's clear from the feedback and evidence from the people I meet that we've still got to get the message out to more people. If it's any consolation it's not just a UK issue. I've spent a lot of my working life dealing with the Dutch.
I always thought they had soil running through their veins, but even they appear to be struggling to attract new people. Their solution is to create a network of 'school information officers' and set up very trendy and interactive 3D websites.
That's all well and good but nothing beats getting out and banging the drum yourself. People are inspired by real examples of success and you can't just rely on a government agency or trade body to tell people how great your industry and your business is only you can do that.
It's not an overnight solution but getting out and about and engaging with your local community and showing people real examples of success would be a great start!