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A Few Things to Think About

A Few Things to Think About

By Ashley Collins, Education Coordinator,

Tis the season! Well it is kind of early for the holidays, unless you’re part of the retail world! However, it is the season for student recruitment. For companies with internship programs and new graduate/manager trainee programs, recruiters are on the road jumping from career fair to career fair (for a listing click here) seeking top young talent to become their peers in the working world.

Our industry is rapidly changing from the traditional agricultural industry of yesteryear and with good cause. The amount of people we are now responsible for feeding and clothing is growing, nearly 77 million people per year. With those changes in our society, one of the first places we’ll see change is in our workforce. I’d dare to say that each person reading this article has, at one time or another, taken part in a conversation that went something like “Kid’s today…..” or “I don’t know what will happen when this generation takes over our corporate offices.” As with all generations, there are good and bad stereotypes given to us by our predecessors.

At, we’ve invested in a variety of projects to help employers better prepare for the shifts we’ve seen in our workforce. Many of the reports we provide revolve around recruitment of college and university talent. We’d like to share some information with you that we’ve gathered in the last twelve months.

The number of students entering universities and colleges in the US, majoring in an agricultural-related field, is shocking in relation to the number of high school graduates there are. Of 2,950,000 high school graduates in 2007, 2,039,805 who went on to enroll in post secondary institutions, 95,525 of those choose to enroll in agricultural programs. That means only 5% of students who are enrolling in their first year of 2-yr or 4-yr postsecondary education are enrolling in an ag-related major.1 Unless we start engaging students at a younger age to pursue careers in agriculture we’ll lose those students to other majors. Many of which, offer degrees we need in our industry, but wouldn’t we like them to have some agricultural training?

When we asked students who influences them when it comes to career choices, 22% answered that their parents and peers are a major influencer.1 We then asked how they feel those parents/peers view career opportunities in the agricultural setting. The second highest response was “Hard work with little pay.”1 We’ve been asking that question again this year in a similar survey and thus far the largest percentage has answered, “Neutral – no different than opportunities in other industries.”2 We (people who currently work or have worked in the industry, in any role,) can be the most effective marketers to encourage young people to work in industry. Are we doing that? Are we doing that with our own children?

Students have also told us that they believe practical work experience/ internships will ultimately land them a job.1 Unfortunately with the economic downtown we’ve been experiencing, internship programs are often one of the first items on the ‘budget chopping block.’ However, when we ask companies about the backgrounds of their new graduate hires, 63% of them hired students who had a previous internship or work experience. 3 This further proves that internship programs are crucial in helping us build a strong entry level workforce.

Of those students who have completed an internship in 2010, the majority (56%) considered at least 1-2 internship offers before making their final decision, and make that choice primarily based on the job duties and responsibilities we give them.4 When asking students what made them decide on their chosen internship, most indicated (31% in the US and 27% in Canada) “Job Duties and Responsibilities” as their deciding factor, as opposed to location, salary, and friend referral.4 Students are looking for project-based work during their internship experience. This can be a lot different from the job duties of a ‘work experience.’ Investing in a well organized internship program is crucial for attracting students to your company. In Canada, 87% of students receive class credit for their internship program while only 35% of US students received academic credit for their internship experience. 4 This can be another great tool for recruitment. Students are looking for opportunities that will allow them to take what they’ve invested in their education and turn that into a career.

Every company or individual will embrace the next generation differently. Maybe these numbers have you thinking about your approach to bringing young people into your company. All of the above are pieces to a much larger puzzle that you must determine when and how you’ll put it together depending on your corporate need.

Below you’ll find a list with details about each of the reports with even more data on this subject. Many are available to download at no charge from our website. Feel free to investigate further, or participate in one our upcoming surveys to have your information included in future reports!

  1. and AgrowKnowledge Enrollment and Employment Outlook – Explores US data surrounding enrollment in 2 and 4 year colleges/universities within agricultural disciplines , career opportunities for those students, salary data for internships and new grad careers along with results to the 2009 US Student Perceptions of Agricultural Careers survey. Available to download at no charge by clicking here.
  2. 2010 and AgrowKnowledge US Student Perceptions of Agricultural Careers survey – data will be available early in 2011. To take the survey click here.
  3. 2009 New Grad & Intern Compensation Survey – The 2010 survey is currently being completed by companies. All who participate receive a free copy of the data – click here to contact the HR Services Consultant to get involved or request the 2009 full report.
  4. 2010 Internship Benchmark Survey – each year offers companies the opportunity to have their interns surveyed at the beginning and again at the end of their internship. Questions cover everything from on-boarding and recruitment to project follow through, manager review and other overall feedback. Participants receive a copy of their intern responses as well as a benchmark report allowing them to compare their results with those from other companies who participated. If you’re interested in evaluating how your company’s program stacks up against others in the industry click here to contact us for more information.

For any further questions feel free to contact us at