A Partnership to Build the Pipeline
If you're a regular follower of AgCareers.com, you've probably noticed our commitment to youth involved in agriculture. This not only includes young people who are already considering future careers in the agricultural industry, but also those who may not know anything about the thousands of opportunities we have available.
Each year, we attend numerous events and work with associations who share this commitment to helping fill the pipeline of talent for our industry. Three years ago, AgCareers.com formed a relationship with Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG). JAG programs exist in 32 different states and 800 programs are in place at Middle Schools, High Schools, Community Colleges, and Community-Based Organizations. JAG is a national, non-profit organization that enrolls students who have been considered 'at-risk' for graduating high school, or for transitioning from high school into an entry level job that leads to a career. The model followed in JAG programs has proven to be successful in turning around drop-out rates, advancement of graduates into fulltime employment, and increased enrollment of JAG graduates into postsecondary education.
AgCareers.com identified JAG as a critical partnership due in part to the opportunity to educate these students about careers in the agricultural industry in hopes that more would consider many of the entry level positions our employers have available. AgCareers.com supports JAG programs in a variety of ways, but one of those is happening this week in Washington, DC - the JAG National Student Leadership Conference (November 17-20th). This event is held annually and allows top performing JAG students from across the country to visit our Nation’s Capital and participate in an intensive 3-day leadership conference.
To help more students experience this opportunity, AgCareers.com launched the ‘What Does Agriculture Mean to Me’ essay contests. We invited middle school and high school students to explain in 500 words what agriculture means to them. Two-thousand and ten marks the second year of this contest and in both years we’ve learned a lot about how students, who may have never considered agriculture as a livelihood, view our industry and what we provide to society. “Reviewing the essays we receive has been a true eye opener and reinforces the importance of reaching out to these students. Each of them possesses skills and abilities that are vital in our industry, yet they know very little about agriculture or the career opportunities they could pursue, or they have a very one-sided view of what we do,” stated Ashley Collins, Education Coordinator with AgCareers.com. “Some of the essays have shown me just what excites these students about agriculture and makes me realize that in agriculture we don’t always promote the ‘cool’ components of our jobs,” added Collins.
Essays have included statements about the importance of agriculture to the cosmetics industry, the sports industry, and the outdoor sports profession. Others have triggered students to write about memories they have of their grandparents or other family members. Our 2009 winner, Jana Tihista, from Nashua, Montana wrote about the hard work that agriculturists face in their careers and how that hard work is rewarding because we are responsible for feeding, clothing, and providing recreation for ourselves and our neighbors.
Jana is now a first year student at Miles City Community College in Miles City Montana working on her Associate’s degree in Agricultural Business. As part of her program, she has visited a variety of local businesses involved in agriculture and is excited about her future working in agriculture. She hopes to transfer to a 4-year university and graduate with her Bachelor’s degree in agricultural business. She is a bright and motivated future agriculturist who AgCareers.com is proud to keep engaged in our industry.
Our 2010 winner, Cody Rader from New Castle, Virginia wrote in his essay about how agriculture means employment for him and his family both directly and indirectly, from his part-time job at a local Christmas tree farm to his father’s employment as a mechanic who often repairs large farm equipment for local business involved in production agriculture. Cody will share his essay with the 600+ fellow JAG members, educators and stakeholders at the Thursday night opening session.
The partnership between AgCareers.com and JAG is causing students to think more about how agriculture impacts their lives and hopefully results in a greater appreciation for the industry. As we continue to develop new technologies and face the challenge of feeding and clothing a rapidly growing population, it will be crucial to work with organizations like JAG so more students, who may not traditionally consider our careers, will!