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Broad, skills-based education crucial for ag careersBroad, skills-based education crucial for ag careers

Big demand seen in plant pathology and genetics, as well as animal genetics and sciences.

July 22, 2016

2 Min Read
Broad, skills-based education crucial for ag careers

Many young Americans are already hard at work on the farm, even as the sounds of “Pomp & Circumstance” still echo in their ears. Other recent high school graduates may be planning to support the agriculture industry in other ways, perhaps as a scientist, salesperson or agronomist. Regardless of their destination, young people looking for a successful career in agriculture should continue a path of learning, experts advise.

U.N. statistics show that the global population will increase by 83 million people each year. This expanding figure means there are a number of agriculture-related jobs to be had, according to education and marketing manager Ashley Collins with AgCareers.com.

“In order to live, these people must be fed, and agriculture is responsible for that,” Collins said.

AgCareers.com, a popular website for jobs in agriculture, lists more than 7,000 agriculture-related jobs daily, and in 2015, it posted a total of 81,386 jobs in agriculture alone.

“Right  now, we see a number of postings in the biotechnology realm,” Collins said. “There’s a big demand in plant pathology and genetics — and the same in animal genetics and sciences.”

In addition, today’s farmers must stay current with the latest technological trends, whether that involves machinery, wireless communications tools, agronomics or something more.

“Change is happening so fast in agriculture,” Texas A&M University agricultural economist Dr. Danny Klinefelter said. “It will take a broad education to keep up to speed on these tools. If your farm business is going to succeed, your management must continue to learn, improve and adapt to the leading edge of the competition, or it will fall behind.”

Both Klinefelter and Collins encourage all young people who hope to work in agriculture to continue their education after high school, regardless of whether they plan to become growers or enter another sector of the industry.

“The most dangerous thing to say is, ‘I’m doing this because this is the way we’ve always done it,’” Klinefelter said. “Going to college will expose students to different things. They’ll have a chance to work with other people, learn to balance time and develop a broad background of knowledge.”

Internships in agriculture are a great way to not only help young people decide the best career path but also become immersed in the industry. In fact, AgCareers.com listed 1,800 internships last year — a 17% jump over 2014.

“The three main skills we look for in a sales intern, for example, are business acumen, knowledge of sales and insight into agronomy,” said Jenny Heaton, head of talent development and talent acquisition at Syngenta North America.

The growth of diverse positions in agriculture will continue, especially as farming becomes increasingly complex, with more information available to analyze.

“I believe there are high school students today who will likely take agricultural jobs out of college that haven’t even been established as careers quite yet,” Heaton added. “The industry is moving fast.”

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