60,000 New Ag Jobs Leave Employers Scrambling For Talent

Job CandidatesClose to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food, and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and USDA that was outlined on NewsWorks.com.The NewsWorks report also says there’s a problem: there’s not enough grads to fill these positions. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That’s left USDA, private industry, and land grant universities scrambling to try and bridge the gap.

The report provides a perspective from Colorado State University (CSU) student Aubriel Jones, who says that when she tells her friends she’s studying agriculture, she sometimes gets puzzled looks.

“They say, ‘Oh you’re learning about corn right? Or you’re learning about how cows eat?’,” Jones says.

But it’s way more than that. Ask what she’s actually studying, and it’s a mouthful.

“My major is agricultural literacy,” Jones says. “I have a minor in global and environmental sustainability and another minor in agricultural and resource economics.”

With agricultural degrees in such high demand, that combination likely sets Jones up for a pretty easy job hunt when she graduates.

“It’s very encouraging,” Jones says. “I think it’s amazing that those numbers are rising and so that gives more opportunities.”

The stereotype of the farmer in manure-covered overalls driving an old tractor still exists, says Kevin Pond, head of CSU’s Department of Animal Science. Helping prospective students see ag as a modern, potentially lucrative field of study is part of the school’s sales pitch. Job openings are highly skilled and a lot of times they’re at Fortune 500 companies in marketing, food safety, plant science, and veterinary medicine.

“It’s no longer menial labor that’s at a low salary,” Pond says. “Their salaries are going up and up and up because of the scarcity.”

Agriculture programs at land grant universities are focusing on science in a bid to stay relevant, even as it takes fewer people to run farms and ranches.

“If you have 1% of your population feeding the other 99%, if we’re relying on that pool to fill our classrooms, we’re going to be a dying college,” Pond says.

Read the full NewsWorks report at http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/thepulse/item/88230-agriculture-jobs-may-be-plentiful-but-new-grads-are-scarce.

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