Say you have a son or daughter who is a junior in high school and checking out colleges. They make good grades and are active in 4-H – maybe they're in FFA, too. You don't live on a farm, but that shouldn't stop them from pursuing a career in agriculture, at least an ag-related field.
Marcos Fernandez, associate dean in Purdue's College of Agriculture, says there is a study trend toward more kids with non-farm backgrounds in the school and fewer kids with farm backgrounds. In fact, this past year the number of farm kids by percentage in the College of Agriculture slipped under one-third of all students. About 20% are from rural backgrounds.
One of the areas students can consider if they are into computers and engineering is working for an ag equipment company. Andy Sykes, an engineer in charge of his division with CNH Industrial, based in Racine, Wis., says you don't even have to be an agricultural engineering student. He has an engineering degree that was not in agriculture, and so do some of the people who work for him.
At the same time he has some Purdue University graduates on his staff. And he likes to hire interns during a summer program so they get a feel for what the application of engineering is like working in a company environment.
"Some people don't want to hire freshmen as interns, but I actually like to hire them," he says. "They need to see what the field is all about early in their careers."
Some of the people that intern for Sykes end up getting jobs at CNH Industrial once they graduate, he notes. It typically works the same way for other companies. The intern process not only instructs the student in how companies operate, but gives company leadership a chance to see what the student can do.