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                         What's Really Inside Their Head?
                                    Defining Today's Agriculture Graduate

We need more people. Plain and simple. The agricultural industry is growing to meet demand, and in order to keep up with that demand we need more employees... talented employees. This isn't rocket science.....any human resources, recruiting, or hiring professional will tell you that a key resource for obtaining more of these talented employees is on college and university campuses. Over the past three years, 60% of employers in the ag industry have reported plans to increase their recruitment of college grads in the next 1 to 5 years. The 40% who don't have college recruiting on their radar yet, are going to be left in the dust when 1-5% of their workforce starts retiring between now and 2020! While post-secondary ag students only make up about 1% of total enrollment in post-secondary education, in 2012 there were 178,394 students enrolled in post-secondary ag programs. Those students will create a ripe hunting ground for companies looking to hire over the next four years.

This past summer, released an update to a report first published in 2010. The U.S. Education & Enrollment Outlook Report- 2013 Update examines agricultural enrollment numbers at both 2 and 4 year institutions across the U.S. along with providing a snap shot of career opportunities for those graduates as they exit their educational programs and the type of salaries they should expect. The report uses sources such as The Food and Agriculture Education Information System (FAEIS), The National Center for Education Statistics and the Compensation Benchmark Review (CBR) to provide data on the status of ag education at the 2 and 4 year level, and the career outlook for those graduates. While there were 18,692 degrees awarded in 2012 (2013 data not available at time of reporting), there were nearly 40,000 jobs were posted on at all degree levels during that same year.

The data within the first four sections of this report is extremely useful for high school agricultural educationdepartments to recruit new students and prepare their graduating students. For colleges and universities, it can be a recruitment tool to draw non-traditional students into their programs. The data is useful for advocacy groups helping to paint the picture that agriculture is a rewarding career choice, and for current students engaged in agricultural education, the data helps to set realistic expectations for the job market.

The next piece of the puzzle forgetting "more people" via collegiate recruiting is to help the employer understand what drives and motivates the student as they consider their first career after graduation. Having this information can help build a successful recruiting program versus an average recruiting program. Average recruiting programs will struggle to attract top talent graduates while successful programs will have their pick of the litter! To provide that missing link, is announcing the addition of Section 5 to the U.S. Education & Enrollment Outlook Report - 2013 Update. This section includes the results of a 29-question survey answered by nearly 350 students between high school and graduate education levels. The survey was designed to gauge student opinions of careers in agriculture, the availability of these careers, and what they are seeking from their first employer. Following is a list of the top 10 findings from Section 5 of the report.

Top 10 Findings

  1. 63% of students cite work ethic as the most valuable employability skill for them to have in order to achieve professional success
    -Maybe they read the 2012-2013 Insight Survey in which employer's ranked work ethic as the most crucial skill set for employees to possess.
  2. College students today have realistic salary expectations for their first job
    -33% of students reported a salary range that matched what employer across the industry report paying new grads.
  3. Between 2010 and 2013, confidence in receiving a job in the ag industry upon graduation fell a slight 8% among students
    -59% of ag students are extremely confident or somewhat confident they will receive a job within a year of graduation
    -Only 31% of ag students are extremely confident or somewhat confident that their friends in non-ag majors will receive a job in their selected industries within a year of graduation
  4. 31% of students attribute their choice to pursue an ag related career to involvement in clubs and organizations such as 4-H and FFA.
    -Parent or guardian influence rose 4% from survey responses in 2010 to a total of 26%
    -School/classroom influence decreased 11% from survey responses in 2010
  5. Only 12% of students report that their peers in other degree programs outside of agriculture see the industry in the same positive light that an ag student does.
  6. Job fit is the most important factor college students look for in their first employer
    -This was followed closely by job location and opportunity for advancement
    -Females rated job fit #1 while males rated opportunity for advancement #1
  7. 75% of students report that they are likely or highly likely to receive a full-time job offer with a company following an internship with that company
    -Ag employers report hiring 1 out of 3 of their interns into full time roles
  8. When evaluating job offers beyond salary, health insurance is the #1 'perk' students look for followed by flexible work hours.
  9. 66% of students prefer a structured trainee program with outlined advancement opportunities
  10. 10. Compared to the national average, agricultural students plan to stay at their first job slightly longer than their peers. 52% report they anticipate staying at their first job for at least 3-5 years.

So what does this tell us is inside their heads? Most students have realistic expectations and they know health care is an important piece of the compensation puzzle. They are children of helicopter parents, and they value those parent's opinions. Their science teacher may not be impacting their career choice but their ag education teacher is. They know they've made a better choice regarding majors or degree programs for their career outlook than their peers in non-ag programs have. They are looking for an employer who is committed to hiring young talent and has a plan in place to help them move up the ladder. Don't count on them to stick around until they become the company CEO;however they have the necessary work ethic to become the CEO. You may be the flashiest company at the career fair with the coolest give-a-way, but if you don't have the perfect job for them, they're not interested.

The intel doesn't stop at these ten points. There are additional insights and comparisons of perceptions by age, gender, and educational level. If you are an educator, student, agricultural advocate, recruiting manager, HR professional, reporter, journalist, advisor, parent or any other definition of a stakeholder in the ag industry, the Enrollment and Employment Outlook 2013 Update can be a valuable resource to you. The entire report can be downloaded at no charge by CLICKING HERE.