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Plain Living: Great time to be a young aggie

I admit it, I'm jealous. Years ago, back in the day, I hoped to land a job in agriculture after finishing school. But the economy, particularly the ag sector, was in terrible shape and ag companies simply weren't hiring. Most weren't even intervi...

Jonathan Knutson
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I admit it, I’m jealous.

Years ago, back in the day, I hoped to land a job in agriculture after finishing school. But the economy, particularly the ag sector, was in terrible shape and ag companies simply weren’t hiring. Most weren’t even interviewing job-seekers; the few that talked with me stressed they had no intention of actually hiring me or anyone else in the foreseeable future. Things worked out for me eventually. But it took time, persistence and more than a little luck.
Times sure have changed. Young adults, especially ones with expertise in math, science or technology, have exciting, immediate opportunities in food and agriculture. There are many reasons for that - too many to list here - and collectively they create a robust job market that hasn’t dried up after the plunge in crop prices.
One more sign of that: A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University has many good things to say about the 2015 to 2020 ag job outlook. The predictions include “a strong employment market for e-commerce managers and marketing agents, ecosystem managers, agricultural educators, crop advisors and pest control specialists” through at least 2020.
The report also says, “Employers in some food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environmental areas will struggle to find enough graduates to fill jobs.”
There’s a rule in writing to reserve exclamation points for rare, special cases. Well, I’ll splurge and use two here. Wow! What a time to be a young aggie!
Ag is big tent
People involved in agriculture know it’s a big tent home to more than farmers and ranchers. Modern ag requires a wide range of skills and, as the USDA/Purdue report indicates, offers a multitude of job opportunities.
There’s a caveat. A college degree is needed for most of the attractive positions expected to be available through 2020. But that’s true for jobs outside ag, too. College degrees don’t guarantee success, and lack of one doesn’t guarantee failure - but they sure improve the odds of landing a good job in or out of ag.
Young, would-be aggies should be aware of two more things, as well. It helps if you’re willing to move around and have job experience. As the USDA and Purdue report says, “Graduates who are mobile and have work experience will have more opportunity.” Colleges, which stress the value of internships and other work experiences, recognize that; I think most students do, too.
A final item of note from the USDA/Purdue report: Women now make up more than half of ag, food, environmental and renewable natural resources graduates. Given that, we’ll almost certainly see more women in ag in the next few years.
Hey, I’m happy - I really am - that young people, both male and female, have great opportunities in agriculture. I’m sure this fresh crop of aggies will make the most of it.
But, yeah, I’m a little jealous, too.

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