How do we attract more people to agricultural careers?

With the advocacy outreach and educational programs going on in conjunction with National Ag Week, there’s another area farmers and ranchers should focus on — the future food industry leaders who will help feed a growing planet.

According to a recent survey conducted by Land O’Lakes, only 3% of college graduates and 9% of millennials would consider careers in agriculture. This shortage of future agricultural leaders is troubling as there are 20,000 agricultural jobs that go unfilled each year.

The survey revealed that the shortage of applicants for agricultural positions could stem from misconceptions about careers in the industry such as pay and availability of jobs.

USDA statistics on current jobs in agriculture reveal that 54% of people think it is difficult or very difficult for recent college graduates to get a job in agriculture. What’s more, the Land O’Lakes survey showed that 76% of respondents aren’t sure if a career in ag pays well. However, 35% of millennials think ag careers do pay well, which could help attract more talent to the field.

READ: Recruitment necessary to fill ag career opportunities

In a press release about the survey, Lydia Botham, Land O’Lakes Foundation says, “We will need to produce more food in the next 40 or 50 years than in the previous 500 years combined. Our priorities are clear – we must focus on attracting the next generation of ag workers to the highly skilled, well-paid career opportunities. Failing to do so may lead to severe consequences.”

Perhaps the old stereotype of farmers plowing fields with a horse, feeding slop to pigs, speaking with a twangy accent on account of the straw hanging from their mouths, and wearing bibs and boots continues to prevail.

READ: 8 reasons to pursue a career in agriculture

If that’s the case, then agricultural leaders need to do a better job of showcasing the many careers within the industry ranging from the creative side to technology and science. A five-year projection from USDA and Purdue University indicates that of the 57,900 current available jobs in agriculture, nearly half are in management and business; 27% are in science, technology, engineering, and math; food and biomaterials production jobs make up 15% of the total; and 12% of the ag jobs are in the fields of education, communication and governmental services. It’s clear that there are ample opportunities within the agricultural industry, and we are ready and waiting for talented individuals. Now it’s our job to find these folks and attract them to consider careers in ag.

Photo Credit: Land O'Lakes

Land O’Lakes is leading the charge in doing just that through a program called Emerging Leaders for Food Security, which aims to “engage future leaders in the challenges and opportunities facing agriculture.” The program is a yearlong fellowship for college students that offers them the opportunity to travel to farms in the U.S., lobby in Washington, D.C., and even visit farms in rural Africa.

To learn more about the Global Food Challenge, click here.

Meet the 2015-2016 class of Emerging Leaders for Food Security by clicking here.

I’m incredibly impressed with this program, and if I could turn back time and be a college student again, I would definitely pursue this opportunity. If you know a young person who might be great for this fellowship, please pass this blog post along and let them know about this awesome fellowship!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

 

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