The U.S. economy has softened, but high school and college graduates in many agricultural fields are finding jobs. Horticulture is one area where students say they are able to create or find positions right now, according to the Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education.
“One of my best students graduated last year and started a business in landscaping,” says Brian Clement, landscape and design management instructor for the Technology Center of DuPage in Addison, Ill. “He has been doing very well. He picked up quite a bit of business over the last year. We see many older people, too, enrolling in college classes and getting a second degree in landscape because there are so many job openings. Others are going on to two- and four-year college programs to further their education.”
Jay Runner, coordinator of Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education (FCAE), says more than 30,000 high school students in Illinois are enrolled in agriculture classes today. Those classes include horticulture, which he says has more than doubled in the last decade.
“Of the total number of agriculture students statewide, about 35 percent are female, 88 percent are non-farm residents and 10 percent are minority students.”
But even with more students enrolled in agriculture in Illinois, James Young, sales manager with Hummert International, a St. Louis-based commercial distributor of horticultural supplies and equipment, says his company often has a hard time finding people with the right degrees and experience in horticulture.
Hummert International is not alone, either. A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report released in 2005 estimated there would not be enough qualified graduates to fill 52,000 annual employment opportunities in agriculture between 2005 and 2010.
“While some horticulture companies are taking a cautious approach to the current economic situation, at least for the time being, the long term outlook for top-quality workers with a background in horticulture is solid,” Young says.