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New Jobs Sprouting in Agriculture


If there was one lesson learned from a room full of agriculture college deans, it’s that there are not enough ag graduates to meet the industry’s demands.

There currently are 60,000 highly-skilled ag positions, but only 35,000 ag graduates to fill them.

This statistic from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was mentioned three times by Illinois and Missouri deans invited to a special panel discussion with the St. Louis Agribusiness Club to share highlights of their ag colleges.

Translating that statistic means about half of all ag graduates are leaving universities with jobs or finding a job within the first six months of graduation.

Here’s what else the deans had to say about the job outlook:

Bryan Garton, associate dean, University of Missouri — While a little over half of Missouri’s graduates readily have full-time ag employment after graduation, 31 percent of them continue with advanced studies and have plans for careers in veterinary medicine, law, research or university teaching. These figures are a three-year average and are the general trend for all of the universities.

“Where they go is all over the place, but what you do see is that our college is very diverse,” Garton said.

One of the top challenges confronted by universities in Missouri, as well as in Illinois, are the declining high school populations in state, Garton said.

Kim Kidwell, University of Illinois — Students have to be “hooked on science” by the time they are age 16 and get them excited about a career in agriculture early, Kidwell said.

“We just happen to be in a business that helps people,” she said. “So we’re a fabulous career path for people who want to make a difference in the world because we’re right at the intersection of science and society.”

A top program at Illinois is agricultural and consumer economics, which Kidwell described as “a better degree than a business degree because of its specificity.”

“The common theme for us isn’t agriculture. It’s actually food,” she said. “We tell the story a little differently than we used to. We tell a food story that backs into agriculture, which works for a lot of people in urban areas. You know 10 of 10 people have to have food.”

Growth areas at Illinois include data analytics, urban food systems, leadership development, environmental sustainability and technology-based majors.

Chris McGowan, Southeast Missouri State University — The top programs at SEMO are plant soil and animal science, but ag education is one that McGowan said is vital.

“Be an ag educator if you want a job,” he said. “You won’t be rich, but I can guarantee you a job.”

A pre-vet option also is a popular program, but McGowan urges high school students to be aware that vet medicine is science “and not just about cute, cuddly animals.”

Source: AgriNews