The career options for young professionals in today’s beer industry are much different than they were years ago. As a college helper on a Coors truck, I became convinced that I wanted to pursue a career in the industry. Working on a beer truck did not give me a clear picture of how a brewery representative operated; however, it did give me a well-defined idea of the inner workings of a distributorship.
I knew I wanted to own and operate a beer distributorship, which was an achievable goal at that time. I soon realized that dream, but the demise of Schlitz put an end to my distributorship. I seriously doubt that in today’s economy I would have an opportunity to own my own distributorship under any circumstance.
There is one standard today that did not exist 40 years ago, and that is the craft brewers’ model. There are multiple opportunities for young professionals today in the craft industry and most of these jobs involve learning all facets of the business, including an education about breweries that self-distribute. Because crafts brewers provide many opportunities for this generation, there may not be a better job for a recent college graduate than being a brewery rep. in a major town.
When I taught a class for the beer certificate program at Portland State, the students were highly committed to their beer, wine, and/or cider operations. These students were like the proverbial pig in the breakfast menu; the chicken is part of the breakfast, the pig, however, is committed! The students at Portland States left no doubt of their resolve to the industry.
When I discuss the industry to a class or group one point I always drive home is to ensure those with whom I am speaking understand that the beer industry, no matter what tier one is discussing, is not a 40-hour-a-week industry.
I recently had dinner with a long time executive-search owner who specializes in the beer industry. During our conversation, he mentioned the challenges he is having finding Millennials to work in the industry. I have heard this same story multiple times. It has become quite difficult to find an employee who is willing to put in the necessary time on the job to be successful. Many wholesalers are struggling to find good and hard-working employees. I sometimes wonder if I would have stayed in the beer industry knowing that acquiring ownership in a beer distributorship would be virtually impossible. Perhaps limited opportunities are seen by today’s young professionals? This point is obviously a generalization of a generation. There are many, hard-working, dedicated Millennials who love what they do and are committed to their breweries.
As past posts have discussed; there are ways in which a distributor might structure their working environment to attract and keep Millennials. Providing Millennials what they are looking for in a company, perhaps they could simply return the wholesalers’ effort by putting in the work that is required.
By the end of the next decade, the last of the Baby Boomers will have retired, and Generation X and Y will be approaching retirement. The Millennials will remain to be the key to the industry. One wonders what the beer industry will be like when this generation assumes the leadership role!
Wherever you go, go will all your heart!