What I’m Hearing! – The Importance of Creating a Talent Pipeline For our Industry

by Andy Keimach | 11 Apr 2024

Industry Commentary, Op-Ed


I have been hearing from members of all sizes that attracting new, young, and diverse talent is a priority for their businesses. To that end, our Toy Foundation’s (TTF) Talent Pipeline aims to create a pool of college and university students who have a variety of talents, interests, and backgrounds for toy companies to recruit for internship and first-hire job opportunities.


TTF’s Talent Pipeline Program’s capstone event is held at Toy Fair. In 2023, the event hosted 50 college students for a multi-day education and recruitment program at the show, which included participation from Jazwares, one of the program’s corporate partners, as well as The Dr. Lisa Company (formerly World of EPI), Horizon Group USA, In KidZ, Mattel, Paramount, Target, and Women in Toys, Licensing, & Entertainment.


Among the students and companies that took part was Gem Miller, a senior at the University of Maryland, and R&R Games, a leading manufacturer of high-quality card games, strategy games, and party games since 1996.


After meeting Gem in   his exhibitor booth, observing their passion for play, and learning about their social media experience – a skillset R&R Games was looking to fill – Frank DiLorenzo, founder and president at R&R Games, offered Gem a job.


Now a few months into the new role, Gem recently sat down with Frank to discuss their Toy Fair experience, the value of TTF’s Talent Pipeline Program, and the benefits for both students and manufacturers of bringing diverse talent into the toy industry. I encourage you to watch the full interview here.


Frank describes the importance of bringing up-and-coming faces into the fold to keep the toy industry fresh and current – and that the “win-win” benefits for both toy companies and students is something that should be embraced by everyone in the industry.


The next Talent Pipeline Program capstone event will be held at Toy Fair 2025 (March 1-4), offering educational and recruitment opportunities that will be complemented by other well-established initiatives at the show:

  • Toy Fair University educational programming, which covers all facets of the toy & play industry;
  • Creative Factor Inventor Day, which enables inventors and entrepreneurs to pitch their toy ideas to top manufacturing partners;
  • and Student Congress, which brings hundreds of students to Toy Fair to explore careers and opportunities in the toy industry.


I’d also like to point to our year-round work to connect toy companies with students through TTF’s collegiate case study competitions held each semester at the University of Maryland, through which we have engaged 200 students to date, with mentors from companies and specialties that span our industry, including Beacon Media Group, Crazy Aaron’s, Thames & Kosmos, and The Walt Disney Company, along with the companies that participated in our Toy Fair ’23  capstone event.


Additionally, plans are in the works to develop an industry-validated degree program at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business that will provide measurable outcomes and truly advance the interests and reputation of the toy industry. The opportunity to work with the Smith School, one to the top business schools in the nation, is an incredible honor that reflects our industry’s $100 billion impact on the national economy. In addition, it allows us to craft a multi-disciplinary program that better serves the talent requirements of the toy industry. Long-term, the program would be replicable to other colleges and universities as well.


Like-minded organizations offer similar opportunities and events to encourage and recognize young talent, like People of Play (POP), whose Young Inventor Challenge invites students between the ages of 6 and 18 to create an original play product and pitch it to professional toy and game inventors for a chance to win prizes.


All these opportunities combined aim to build a strong pipeline of talented candidates for the toy community.


To get involved TTF’s Talent Pipeline Program opportunities outlined here, or to learn more, I encourage you to visit ToyFoundation.org or reach out to TTF staff.



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