Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the USDA, reports Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media on Newsworks.org.
The American agriculture industry has a problem though; there’s not enough grads to fill them. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That’s left the USDA, private industry and grant universities scrambling to try and bridge the gap.
When Colorado State University student Aubriel Jones tells her friends she’s studying agriculture, she sometimes gets puzzled looks.
“They say, ‘Oh you’re learning about corn right? Or you’re learning about how cows eat?’ Things like that,” Jones says.
But it’s way more than that. Ask what she’s actually studying, and it’s a mouthful.
“My major is agricultural literacy,” Jones says. “I have a minor in global and environmental sustainability and another minor in agricultural and resource economics.”
With agricultural degrees in such high demand, that combination likely sets Jones up for a pretty easy job hunt when she graduates.
“I mean, it’s very encouraging,” Jones says. “I think it’s amazing that those numbers are rising and so that gives more opportunities.”
CSU is Colorado’s land grant university, institutions originally established in the 1800s to teach agriculture, science and engineering to eager students. Kevin Pond, head of CSU’s department of animal science, says while enrollment in his department is steadily rising, the vast number of vacant jobs in agricultural and food sectors is partly due to perception. Young people don’t think of it as a growing field, or an area with sunny job prospects, even though it’s common for animal science graduates to come out with multiple job offers.
Students, even at this land grant university, are increasingly urban. Most don’t come from a farm background.
“The truth is, in animal science, it’s 80 percent female, it’s 90 percent urban and our new minority is a white male from a rural background. Crazy to think,” Pond says.
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