Time to do Something Different
By Ashley Collins – AgCareers.com Education & Marketing Manager
We’ve all heard it over and over again. The world’s population is growing and growing fast. With 9.3 billion people expected by 2050, we have to figure out how to produce more food in the next 50 years than we have in the previous 10,000 years. Well how are we going to do that? We’re going to make fantastic scientific discoveries that help us grow more food using fewer resources.
To make those discoveries and put them into action, we need people…….more people excited about careers that are either directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. But we are kidding ourselves if we think that young people are just going to wake up one day and say “hey, I think I want to be part of a career that is both rewarding and challenging and will allow me to make a difference in the future food supply of our planet.” We have to do more to educate our youth who know nothing about agriculture or our industry.
There are numerous organizations, associations, and foundations that support agriculture awareness and advocacy, and they should be supported, but we must also turn around and face the congregation and do more to reach those who have no clue about agriculture. We have to do something different.
Six years ago, AgCareers.com was introduced to an organization that knocked on our door with two unique selling points. One, they reached 43,257 students at the middle and high school level with information about jobs, career readiness, and employability skills for the workplace, and two, most of these students had no idea that agriculture careers are not just farm/production related careers and that the industry supports such a wide variety of allied careers in science, business, engineering and trade level careers. Many of those opportunities are currently in their communities and are careers they may inspire to do ‘when they grow up.’ They just needed a reason to explore those careers. So we seized this opportunity to start reaching the congregation.
The program is called Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) and there are currently 895 JAG programs in 32 different U.S. States. AgCareers.com began supplying materials for the JAG teachers, known as Specialists, to help teach resume writing, interviewing skills, and other job searching tips for the students, all with a focus on agriculture. In year two of the relationship, we launched an essay contest, challenging the students to investigate agricultural careers. The winning essay would be rewarded with an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC for the annual JAG Student Leadership Conference.
The first year we offered the essay contest, I learned more about agriculture than I had in my lifetime of growing up around and working in the industry. The topic during the first year was ‘What does Agriculture Mean to You?’ and the reason I was getting an education was because these students we’re turning to Google to find out why agriculture was important to them. As I read nearly 100 essays that first year, I knew we were reaching the right people. While in the grand scheme of things, 100 student essays is a very small percentage of the population, we were getting young people who had no idea how important agriculture is to their food, fiber, and fuel supply, to start investigating our industry.
Our 2013 essay topic was to highlight an Agriculture Career in Your Community. The winning essaywas written about a career that without a doubt is one of the most critical to our need of finding more people who will make those fantastic scientific discoveries. Discoveries that will allow us to produce more food with fewer resources and who will educate the professionals and tradesmen who will be needed to support those discoveries. The career described in this essay was that of an Agriculture Educator, the person who is often the first to open the door to a student for career exploration into agriculture. Not all the entries were from students who had been exposed to agricultural careers. Like each year, the entries were diverse. They highlighted a wide array of careers across the country from an environmental analyst to a crop consultant, and provided more reassurance that young people who otherwise would have never considered agriculture as a profession were asking questions and beginning to explore agriculture careers.
I’m proud that we’re doing something different at AgCareers.com. We have great relationships with organizations in both the U.S. and Canada who are focused on agriculture and agriculture advocacy, but our experiences meeting JAG students, working with their Specialists, and reading numerous essays, is that little something extra that really helps you realize that you are making a difference.
There are a lot of ways you can do something different to impact who your future co-workers will be, challenge yourself and your company to explore those opportunities. We certainly recommended learning more about JAG at www.jag.org.
Read more about our 2013 Essay Winner here.