How Do Students View Agricultural Careers?

For the past two years, AgCareers.com has surveyed young people about their perceptions of agricultural careers. The 2009 data was included in the AgCareers.com and AgrowKnowledge Enrollment and Employment Report that examines the current state of employment opportunities for future graduates in the agricultural industry. ‘The results of these questions continue to be of interest for employers and associations with whom partner. Therefore, we decided to run the survey again in 2010 so we could continue to collect this information to help us better understand the importance of appropriately marketing careers in our industry,’ stated Ashley Collins, Education Coordinator with AgCareers.com.

The inaccurate stereotype that is often associated with careers in agriculture, has been a constant conversation topic at recruitment workshops and conferences across the country hosted by AgCareers.com and many others. In the last year, we’ve seen several big players in the ag industry launch videos and other marketing campaigns to improve the image of working in agriculture, which includes food, biotechnology, and the life sciences! The efforts of those campaigns seem to be evident in the results of this year’s survey. However, it should remain a constant commitment of all agricultural companies to work together as an industry to improve our image with the general public.

The online survey was launched in January 2010 and remained live until December 31, 2010. Information about the survey was distributed on the AgCareers.com homepage, the AgrowKnowledge homepage, in AgCareers.com social media outlets, the 2010 AgCareers.com Ambassador Team, as well as at numerous career fairs and trade show events attended by Agcareers.com. Nearly 400 responses were collected with nearly half (48%) coming from students at the 4-year University level. The next highest demographic was high school students with 20% of the responses.

Highlights from the 2010 Perceptions of Agricultural Careers Survey

When asked What do you perceive will be the skills that will ultimately land you a job? 23% of the students responded, Practical work experience/ Internships followed by Communication Skills with 19% of the responses. This is an accurate and important point for employers who may be considering cutting their internship program or leaving it on the backburner in a recovering economy. We all must contribute to educating students via internship programs if we plan to have a talented pipeline of applicants in the future. Communication Skills are also critical as we hear more employers list ‘soft skills’ as part of the total package for top recruits.

Seventy-four percent of the students responded Yes to the question Do you plan on pursuing a career in agriculture? Of that 74%, there was a tie for the highest ranking responses when asked Who/What influenced you to pursue agribusiness related studies? That tie was between School Classes and Clubs / Organizations (4-H/ FFA) each with 26% of the responses. Those results show just how important it is for our industry to keep educators in the loop about the careers we have available in our industry. Teachers can be the number one recruiter for your company so it is important that we communicate to them the most current information on job titles and job descriptions of what we need in agricultural industry. Parents were the next highest response at 18%.

When asked How do you feel about the career opportunities in agriculture and food? The highest response (30%) was Rewarding opportunities that provide good benefits followed closely (28%) with Optimistic about the number of opportunities available. We then asked students How do you feel your peers view career opportunities in agriculture and food? The highest response (23%) was Neutral – no different than opportunities in other industries followed closely by Hard work and little pay (18%). These responses should come as justification for collaborative efforts to market the abundance of exciting, cutting edge and rewarding career opportunities we have in our industry. In the 2009 results, hard work and little pay was the third highest ranking response to the question about how peers view agricultural careers!

Luckily, in response to that question, 24% (the highest response) of students choose eight on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being the least significant and 10 equaling the most significant impact) when asked, Do you feel that a career in agribusiness would afford you to make significant impact in providing food/fiber for the world? While that’s not a 100% affirmation, it does show hope that young people realize the importance of working in agriculture to sustaining our planet! Notably 76% of the students answered that they consider agricultural careers 'green industry' careers.

We hope that these results get you thinking about your personal commitment to encouraging young people to work in agriculture as well as your company’s commitment to recruiting those students! AgCareers.com provides a variety of data that can help you in painting the picture that agriculture is an attractive career choice. Check out those reports via our market research page or contact your AgCareers.com account manager.


© 2011 www.agcareers.com