Careers for Purpose (CFP) is a Sydney-based recruitment firm that bills itself as the first such service focused exclusively on purpose-driven industries, with alternative proteins being one of its focus areas. 

Founded in 2021, the firm says that it only works with companies and job seekers that aim to support environmental and social change through their businesses and careers, respectively.

Future Alternative caught up with CFP founder and Director Teresa Romanovsky about the trends she sees emerging among talent recruitment for the alt protein and plant-based industries.

You’ve been in the recruitment game for over two decades, previously supporting clients in industries such as ICT, construction, and logistics, among others. What triggered the move into recruiting for sustainable industries like plant-based, and eventually founding Careers for Purpose?

In 2020, I was made redundant from a senior level role in one of Australia’s biggest recruitment agencies, and I subsequently found it extremely challenging to get another job during that particularly awful year for everyone. I was overqualified for consultant roles and there was literally nothing at the management level.  Friends and colleagues kept telling me to start my own business.  

I was very resistant – I didn’t want to start a business recruiting in any of the sectors I had worked in previously, as none of them excited me. If I was to set up a business it had to be to recruit for something I felt personally passionate about and something that no one else seemed to be offering.

After a few months of deliberation, gathering market intelligence, and seeking input from my broader network, I created Careers For Purpose to be Australia’s first dedicated recruitment service for mission-driven employers and values-driven job seekers.

This meant starting a business from absolute zero – I had no clients or candidates or connections in the four key sectors I was targeting. However, it’s been an absolute joy connecting with companies and candidates that believe in the things I do, like protecting our planet. It’s been quite the ride so far.

How do you view the current recruitment environment in the Australia alt proteins sector?

Alt proteins is not a key market for CFP at this stage in terms of revenue generation, as the market is too small in Australia.  With the exception of the likes of Vow and V2, everyone else is still scrambling for funding. 

In my recent round of research speaking to a variety of key players across plant-based, fermentation, and cultured meats, virtually no one was using recruitment agencies yet.  Most recruitment is being done by referral or direct approach.  This makes sense for a start-up.  It’s when they start to first get funding, and second scale up, that hiring directly becomes untenable.  

Teresa speaking at the recent Sydney alt protein networking night

The founders are time poor, but when they become a little more cash rich, outsourcing becomes an option.  They may have also exhausted their own networks and don’t possess the same reach as a recruiter has through the myriad paid tools we use to connect with candidates consistently and build talent pipelines.  

However, this industry will explode over the coming years, and it’s CFP’s intention to be synonymous with talent searching in this sector.  No other recruitment agency is paying attention.

On the employee side, what kind of roles do you see your job seekers in alt protein looking for, and what do the demographics look like? 

The roles in this sector are broad. Both graduate and experienced science professionals are required. But then there are roles for software engineers, AI, and big data analysts, plus all the operational roles across supply chain management, manufacturing management, QA, marketing and comms, sales, finance, and HR & talent. There are also roles that sit between science and operations, like product development. 

There is opportunity here for early career and those mid or late career looking to pivot.  Alignment with the industry goals is important, though.  Whilst scitech attracts those that are acutely fascinated by the science, it is still preferable that they are aligned with the overall mission – reduction of animal agriculture and its associated problems, saving immense amounts of water, better health outcomes, feed more with less, etc. 

Every alt protein company I have spoken to – and it’s most of them – have agreed that alignment with mission is essential regardless of what role you fulfil.

What kind of skills are currently most in demand for the local plant-based and alt protein industries?

There is a distinct lack of talent onshore for certain scitech skills such as fermentation, synthetic biology, or food science in general, and graduates often aren’t coming out of uni with enough lab experience. 

However, in my recent conversations, it is becoming apparent that as some of these companies are starting their journey to scale, they are experiencing a gap in leadership skills and commercialisation vision. It’s great having an awesome product, but if you don’t have the right skills to market that product to the consumer, to negotiate with suppliers, or to manage the factory to scale up to meet demand, then your awesome product simply won’t sell.

It is these operational and commercial roles that will provide opportunities for mid career professionals to pivot into this industry.

What other employment trends in alt protein have you seen over the last few years as the industry has evolved and, more recently, hit some rough patches? 

The Australian market is too small to define any particular trends in employment at this stage.  Everyone is scrambling for funding and many are still in the R & D phase.  However, if you look at the UK, European, and USA employment markets, there is a distinct ramping up of opportunities in this sector. 

Plant-based food sales globally are increasing year on year, and despite some media slating the industry for failure because of a handful of companies that have mismanaged sales or other expectations, the growing list of successes and continuous new entrants demonstrates this industry is not going away.  

In Australia, we have cultured meat likely to hit restaurants next year, and it will be an interesting public experiment to see how Australians embrace this brand new food. We are seeing the rise of flexitarians and more and more Australians are actively trying or seeking out plant based alternatives at the supermarket, at restaurants and fast food outlets.

I believe the future is bright for the sector, which means the future is bright for animals, the environment, and our health.

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