Engaging The Next Generation

Youth are our promise for the future. So how do we attract more of them to the promotional products industry? With 50 percent of industry professionals aged 45-69, according to PPAI Expo data, one of the biggest industry concerns is attracting and developing future generations. 

For more than a century, our industry has largely been built by those who happened upon it while pursuing other opportunities, but future leaders are more likely to make promotional products an intentional career choice thanks to the expanded efforts of organizations like PPAI and the many dedicated individuals who serve the industry now. 

PPB’s annual search to spotlight the industry’s Rising Stars (see this year’s lineup starting on page 29) is an exciting way we’re bringing attention to this vital demographic, but there are a number of other efforts under way to attract young people to the industry—and some start at the high school level.

  • Since 1989, the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF) has awarded $1.9 million in college scholarships to the children of industry employees—and to college-bound industry employees as well. In the past five years, PPEF has doubled its funding for college scholarships; this year it gave out $200,000 to worthy applicants. Regardless of whether the student chooses a career in the promotional products industry, providing financial support for their education enhances the overall awareness of the industry and provides an important avenue for all of us to invest in the future. Read about the 132 college-bound students who won this year’s scholarships in PPB’s October issue.
  • Many schools from the elementary to the college level host programs that expose students to myriad career options by inviting experts from a wide range of professions. For more than a decade, PPAI has worked to train industry professionals to speak to groups, including students, about the industry and its opportunities. Five years ago, a new ADvocate Program shared by PPAI and ASI was announced. The training is free, and participants become certified as industry ADvocates. As a plus, both organizations actively promote the availability of speakers to schools, community groups and key industries—so it also puts their business in the limelight. Find more information at advocate.ppai.org.
  • Increasing a young person’s exposure to opportunities within the industry is a proven way to attract them.
    PPAI’s Intern Education Program was designed to help member companies recruit and train interns, while showcasing the various career options available in companies across this great industry. If you’ve got an opportunity in your company to add a young intern, find more information at ppai.org/members/education/intern-education.
  • For several years now, PPAI has been working closely with the American Marketing Association to connect with its members—specifically 11,000 undergraduate marketing students and faculty advisors. The two organizations recently collaborated on a comprehensive research study to find out how the academic community views and approaches promotional products. See the highlights—some quite surprising—in our feature story starting on page 86.
  • In 2017 PPAI debuted a new conference, SPARK, designed for the younger generation in the promotional products industry, and it’s been a sell-out event for two years now. And the group is staying involved in a SPARK After Dark networking event at The PPAI Expo every year. They also have their own page on Promo Connect. The huge turnout at this conference taught PPAI organizers one thing: this generation is eager to get involved in the industry, and providing them with targeted, relevant experiences is the way to draw them out. See our coverage of the July conference in Nashville on page 98.

You can help ensure the future of the promotional products industry by educating and engaging with students about our industry, making your company an attractive employer for the younger generation and creating opportunities for them to work with you. 


Tina Beres Filipski is editor of PPB.


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