Bridging the Gap: Recruiting Young Professionals and College Students to the Agriculture Industry

The world needs young people interested in science, research, and agriculture if it is to have a stable food supply in the future. But, unfortunately, agriculture is rarely at the top of the list of appealing employment opportunities for young adults in an increasingly urbanized world. Yet, there is ample opportunity for young professionals to thrive in the Ag industry—with little competition, high demand, and the satisfaction of addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, it’s a great career choice for the younger generations. As the baby boomer generation continues to retire at an astronomically high rate, it’s going to require Ag businesses to start recruiting young professionals eager to learn to fill those high-level leadership roles in the future. 

There is a massive demand for college graduates with a degree in agriculture. In 2015 there were an estimated 57,900 high-skilled job openings in the U.S.’s agriculture, food, renewable natural resources, and environmental fields. This number has only grown throughout the years. According to USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University, there is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture-related fields annually. That’s 22,500 short of filling available Ag jobs every year!

These numbers will only become more drastic as our population continues to grow. Here are three ways to bridge the age gap in the Ag industry.

1 – One-on-One Mentoring

Networking with college students and young professionals interested in the Ag industry is a significant first step into bridging the age gap. If your business can offer mentoring and networking opportunities, it can show young professionals that there is more to agriculture than what meets the eye. It allows young adults to get a better look into agriculture and see that it is a viable career choice. Along with helping college students find a great career path, there are additional benefits for both the mentor and mentee:

  • Enable companies to have a good chance at hiring mentees after graduation.
  • Helps mentees identify and establish career goals.
  • Mentors gain leadership development skills.
  • Networking for both the mentor and mentee.

2 – Brand Refresh

One of the most significant setbacks for recruiting young professionals to the Ag Industry is that it doesn’t seem exciting—which is far from the truth! Agriculture encapsulates a vast job market, with half the job opportunities in management and business, another 27% in science, technology, engineering, and other STEM fields, 15% in food and biomaterials production, and 12% in education, communication, and governmental areas. Agriculture positions also dive into some of the world’s most pressing challenges and find viable solutions to keep our communities safe and healthy.

Businesses in this industry must pull back the curtain and show college students and young professionals what a career in agriculture can look like. Having networking events, collaborative workshops, internships, accessible information, and field days can help showcase the exciting opportunities in this industry.

3 – Scholarships

Scholarships are a great way to encourage broader participation in related Ag industries like policy development, nutrition, economics, and social sciences. Devex spoke to young researchers in the Ag industry to better understand how and why they chose their careers. Devex found that many people interested in getting into agriculture often come from farming families or families with ties to the Ag industry somehow. However, their socioeconomic status was one of their biggest deterrents from getting into the Ag sector. 

By providing scholarship opportunities to communities already connected to the Ag industry, there is the possibility of increasing the number of Ag graduates. Additionally, there are other benefits to offering scholarships:

  • Scholarships make education easier to access
  • It creates a talent pool for future graduate recruitment
  • Raises brand awareness to the next generation
  • Attracts younger audience to the Ag sector

The Importance of Finding Young Talent for Future Leadership Roles

While a young college graduate will not be your next executive hire, you have the potential to mold them into a future leader in your company. The baby boomer generation is only going to continue to retire, leaving executive, C-Suite, and leadership positions vacant. It’s important to start the training and upskilling process now with eager to learn young professionals to create a solution for a persistent lack of talent in the job market. 

Looking to Find Your Next Ag Hire?

Finding ways to bridge the age gap in the Ag industry will continue to be a pressing issue for years to come. But, by following these recommendations, businesses can find younger talent to bring in and foster their growth. Are you struggling to find your next leader in the Ag sector? Ag 1 Source can help you find and retain the best executive candidates in the industry—contact our team today.