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For a job with a future, look to agricultureFor a job with a future, look to agriculture

The STEM Food & Ag Council found that career opportunities in the food and agriculture industries for the next generation will be significant. 

Paul L. Hollis

November 23, 2014

3 Min Read

Country crooner Willie Nelson, along with the late, great Waylon Jennings, famously warned mama’s everywhere not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys.

“Don’t let them pick guitars and drive them old trucks, make them be doctors and lawyers and such,” they sang.

But is this sage advice in today’s economy?

Most doctors complain that between government regulations and malpractice insurance, it’s all they can do to maintain their country club memberships.

And it’s no secret that America is over-lawyered, with almost 1.3 million attorneys, which is more by far than any other country and more as a percentage of the national population than almost all others. A recent report from the National Association for Law Placement states that fewer than half of the people graduating from law school eventually landed jobs in a law firm, and only 65 percent found positions requiring passage of the bar exam.

With all due respect to Misters Nelson and Jennings, maybe it’s time to reconsider current prospects.

So what’s a person to do who’s looking for a good job with long-term security?

According to a report released in October at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue, there’s a great need now for young agricultural professionals.

The report includes a detailed analysis of enrollment and workforce trends in six agriculture fields: agricultural business and management, agriculture mechanization and engineering, animal sciences, plant and soil science, food science and technology, and other life sciences.

The STEM Food & Ag Council, the sponsor of this inaugural report, found that career opportunities in the food and agriculture industries for the next generation will be significant. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Food & Ag Council is a unique public-private partnership dedicated to engaging the next generation in careers in the food and agricultural workforce.

The following were among the report's findings:

-From January to August 2014, nearly 34,000 people were hired each month.

-A quarter of workers are at the age of 55 or older, which means job opportunities will grow through workforce attrition.

-The report analysis projects a 4.9 percent growth in employment opportunities in the next five years, adding 33,100 new jobs in advanced agriculture fields.

It would appear that agriculture truly is a growth industry, in more ways than one.

Commenting on the findings in the report, Iowa Lieutenant Governor and STEM Food & Ag Council chair Kim Reynolds said, “We live in a knowledge-based, global economy and it is critical that our students are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century, and that the food and agriculture sector can fill its growing demand for young professionals.”

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences leaders embraced the report’s findings and pledged to continue close relationships with industry leaders who help them identify the skills and training graduates need for career success.

“The report describes with specific statistics what we’ve long heard from our industry partners, that they can’t find enough qualified professionals to fill vital jobs,” said Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources. “The future of Florida’s economy and its 280 agricultural commodities depend upon the quality and quantity of the next generation of leaders we produce.”

Dean Elaine Turner said UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences keeps its curriculum relevant to the 21st century workplace by listening to stakeholders about industry needs.

The report – which can be found at www.stemconnector.org – includes recommendations on closing the human capital gap and provides an annual snapshot of the workforce supply and demand for each of the identified programs.

About the Author(s)

Paul L. Hollis

Auburn University College of Agriculture

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