The whole time I was participating in the Confectionery Foundation’s NextGen program, I kept hearing one thing over and over — the confectionery industry is like a family.

By the end of the experience, I understood what they were talking about.  

I was recently one of the interns who had the privilege of attending the 2019 Sweets and Snacks Expo as part of the NextGen program, which is designed to assist students interested in the confectionery industry by helping them gain knowledge, experience and connections.

About 35 industry professionals volunteered to mentor the students for the day, and they helped direct us around the Expo and answer any questions about the industry that we had.

The mentors were assigned to each group based on what aspect of the industry the students were interested in, such as business marketing and engineering, computer science, food science and technology, food processing, package design and much more. And the mentors represented companies such as Elmer Chocolate, Promotion in Motion, Barry Callebaut, Ferrara Candy and Kraft.

And after the initial morning introductions and welcome it was time for the reason we were all there — to explore the candy show.

We got to tour booths for Just Born, Smarties, Goetze’s Candies, Jelly Belly, Haribo, and Brown and Haley. And representatives of those companies took the time to speak with us and tell us all about their company — from the history of the brands to what they see for the future. They also went over any opportunities that may be available for students or recent graduates in their companies.

There was both a morning and afternoon session of these tours, so each group got to visit about eight to ten different booths with presentations over the course of the day.

And at lunch — where the food was amazing, by the way — there was also presentations from HR professionals who shared tips and tricks to landing a job after graduation.

They also presented on how to help ease the transition from the academic world to the working world, which was especially insightful and interesting. They talked about what to say, what kind of questions to expect, and how to truly be confident and be yourself when on the job hunt. This presentation was also accompanied by a panel of young industry professionals who were able to speak to this transition from recent experience.

The day ended with a career fair and thank you reception.

The career fair consisted of companies that were seen throughout the day on the tours. And at this time students had the opportunity to hand out resumes and ask any further questions that they may have had or came up with throughout the day.

I am so glad that I was able to be a part of such a great program. I had such an amazing experience, and I received a lot of insight into the industry and what it has to offer.

This is a great program for students or recent graduates that have even the slightest interest in the confectionery industry.

I’m honestly a fashion business and marketing major, so I didn’t know exactly how the program would relate to my field. But after spending the day with the amazing mentors and seeing all the different aspects of the confectionery industry, I realized there were countless ways that the two industries were tied together.

The candy industry also is full of so much creativity, just like the fashion world. And they rely on the same consumer behavior studies and data that the fashion industry does.

Before attending the program, I didn’t realize there were so many jobs within the confectionery industry, and being a confectionery buyer or merchandiser was especially intriguing to me.

Also, did I mention the free candy? 

Editor's note: Monica Barracks is Editor Crystal Lindell's sister.