Want a job? Agriculture industry teeming with them, demand keeps climbing
U.S. agriculture and food companies are struggling to attract enough workers, a problem the industry concedes is getting worse as innovation and growing demand for their products leads to the creation of thousands of new jobs, according to a report in USA Today.
Agribusinesses have been working for years to shed their stodgy and outdated image to help draw employees and stop the loss of highly qualified workers to other fields such as engineering and financial services. In recent years, agribusinesses, colleges and others within the agricultural industry have promoted opportunities beyond the farmer in the field that were overlooked in the past — resulting in a dearth of employees today.
“We certainly have a shortfall, no doubt about it,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the Agriculture Department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Ramaswamy added that while there has been an increase in the number of students enrolled in agriculture at U.S. universities, “that’s not been enough to keep up with the demand that we’ve got in the workforce.”
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded a study released by Purdue University in 2010 that showed just how big of a problem the employment situation might be for the industry. The research found that, between 2010 and 2015, an estimated 54,400 jobs would be created annually in agricultural, food and renewable natural resources.
To help fill the void, approximately 29,300 students are expected to earn degrees in traditional agriculture and life science-related fields each year. An additional 24,200 students are seen coming from disciplines such as biological sciences or businesses where graduates could choose to go into agriculture or another field.
Agriculture is hoping to lure prospective workers by touting a more modern image where employees are immersed in everything from robotics and GPS systems to plant and animal genetics. Companies have focused more attention on promoting the job opportunities for scientists, accountants, attorneys and others. To help attract employees, businesses have boosted salaries, increased internships and worked more closely with universities to better prepare students for what they can expect when they graduate.
A January survey of members of the Coalition for a Sustainable Agricultural Workforce — whose companies include General Mills, DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto and Cargill — found the pipeline of graduates isn’t as full as it should be and there will be challenges finding people with the right education and experience. Some new hires will need to be retrained, they said.
Reporting by Christopher Doering
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