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Best Advice to Farm Youth: Hone Your Farming Skills

Survey finds lack of skilled labor hurts America's economic growth the most.

This week, many high school and college students head back to the classrooms. And many have no clear path cut for a career. Yet, farm-raised youth hold a clear advantage on any employment line – due to work skills and work ethics learned on the farm.

In fact, the more "heavy metal" – iron and steel, that is – experience they have, the more valuable they're perceived by today's manufacturers. That's the bottom line of a recent poll of U.S. manufacturing executives.

The number one obstacle to U.S. economic growth, according to the poll was the lack of skilled labor and management skills in the work force – traits quite often honed on farm and other family businesses. It was noted by 27% of 166 executives. The poll was conducted for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, the American Welding Society, Fabricators and Manufacturers Association International and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Oil prices ranked second, at 20%. Tax policies, weak U.S. dollar, the financial commitment in Iraq and the credit crisis ranked far lower.

Key future skills in demand

While competitive wages were, of course, seen by the executives as the best way to attract young people into manufacturing careers, the executives urged three other important actions:

27% urged encouragement by parents and teachers.

23% urged the offering and taking of more relevant science and math programs in high school and college.

22% urged more computer and high tech skills.

Two other skills will be sought in young people moving into the workforce, according to the survey. Ability to develop innovative products is high on the list of 22% of the executives. Ability to improve production efficiencies was cited by 21%. Once again, agriculture is a key training ground for both skills.

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