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The Student Recruitment Quandary held a networking session for agricultural human resource professionals in Winnipeg, Manitoba on February 4, 2015. Participants discussed high priority HR topics, including student recruitment. Led by President Eric Spell, they identified several current student recruitment issues and recommendations.

Approximately 60% of agribusinesses plan to do more graduate recruitment in the next one to five years.i If you plan to do more recruitment or feel like your current methods are failing, let’s talk about how to address the student recruitment quandary!

Competitive Pay

Competitive pay was on top of the list. Offering reasonable, yet competitive wages was a big issue for participating agribusinesses. Pay needs to fit the company budget and be reasonable for the location and type of position, yet be competitive in the marketplace. 

Oftentimes the perception is that students have unrealistic salary expectations for their first job. However, when student wage expectations were compared with salary averages for new grad hires, their expectations were not unrealistic.ii

Employers should use compensation data as a cost effective method to guide recruiting efforts. Companies can benchmark salaries and have a strategically sound solution to manage compensation programs by using a salary survey, such as the Compensation Benchmark Review.

Recruitment Program

Finding time to invest in developing a student recruitment program was an issue for participating agribusinesses. The group agreed that there was a “war on talent” at the collegiate level. Agribusinesses surveyed in the HR Review said that an increase in graduate recruitment was mainly driven by the competition for talent. Each employer needs to have a game plan to be competitive in order to attract the best of the best. Mediocre on-campus strategies are a waste of time and money.

Many employers cite their formal internship programs and student work experiences as a way they attract new graduates. How a company approaches the development and management of an internship program is the difference between success and failure. Investing the time and effort into a proper program helps with recruiting efforts, retention, morale, and company productivity. Employers can attend the Internship Programs that Yield Results workshop to learn the building blocks of a great program. The workshop will be held April 14-15, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Already have an internship program? It is important for employers to gauge student expectations and deliverables. also offers a student evaluation of a company’s internship program in an industry benchmarking format, with the Internship Benchmark Survey.

The Local Level

Sometimes it is difficult to find on-site supervisors to complete the students’ orientation and training program at the local level. This is imperative though and truly impacts the student’s perceptions. This needs to be very well thought out before a student is hired. These contacts also need to communicate their needs to corporate, such as-- will an intern/summer work experience student be returning the following year? Or will they be offered a full-time position? 

Students and new grads crave constant feedback. Supervisors should be encouraged to schedule a weekly time to visit with them to discuss progress and provide feedback. Open communication between the corporate, regional and local levels will ease student recruitment difficulties. Emphasize constant communication and evaluation of performance throughout the experience.

Ag Perceptions

Some students have the misconception that the ag industry only offers on-farm jobs, and fail to see the real career path and opportunities. Another issue can be that ag students plan to go back to the family farm after college graduation. Communication needs to be increased to students about the variety of non-farm jobs available in the industry. Also, there are many positions within agriculture that require no prior ag experience. Promotion to non-ag majors can help fill this gap. 

What else can we do to reach the 10-18 year old audience? It was suggested that companies take part in more local high school events, ag in the classroom and career symposiums. Employers should also investigate increasing participation in local clubs and organizations (e.g. 4-H and FFA) as surveyed students have told us that clubs/organizations were the most influential when deciding on their agricultural education.iii

The issue for some companies is finding people who are willing and able to relocate, as this seems to be a hesitation among students. Participants suggested connecting with students who’ve demonstrated the ability and willingness to move around, such as involvement with theYouth Ag-Summit

More information about student perceptions of the ag industry can be found in Enrollment and Employment Outlook report

To find out more about student recruitment resources, contact