This past week, the Agriculture Department at Barton Community College was privileged to have members of our advisory board on campus for our twice yearly meeting. The purpose is to update these members of the agricultural and school communities where Barton is in its Agriculture Program, what is down the road, and the challenges and opportunities faced in an ever changing world. The last but perhaps most important topic on the agenda is what is on the mind of the leaders of the industry we serve. What are we doing right? What should we be doing? What are their concerns?
Two interesting question for discussion were brought up. Is the area aware of Barton’s Ag program and what is offered for both traditional and nontraditional students? The more pertinent question for this column is “Are students and those looking for careers aware of what opportunities exist in the field of agriculture?” This question is pertinent in every industry. Those of us involved in agriculture, or many industries, take the scope of career opportunities for granted and forget the general public often has a stereotypical view of the profession.
The great aspect regarding agriculture is that it can both fit the stereo type of dirt farmers and cowboys to a tee while at the same time totally blowing that stereotype out of the water. You can spend almost 100% of you time with crops, or with livestock, or in a tractor while getting covered in dirt and grime from head to toe. You can also be involved in agriculture and seldom if ever see a field of wheat or a feedlot and end the day as clean as you were in the morning. You can spend your days in hard physical labor or use technology the average person is totally unaware of or a combination of the two. Whether you like to work with minimal supervision, as part of a team or a combination of the two, agriculture fits. Agriculture is science, technology, physical, mental, and probably any other adjective that comes to mind for a profession.
One last point is important to remember. Many are looking for a career with excellent pay and benefits. Students and parents want to know that the investment in post-secondary education will result in that type of career. Keep in mind that there are many possible career paths with some requiring almost no post-secondary education with good salaries and benefits. Some careers pay better than agriculture but agriculture has an ace up its sleeve – stability. Many during the oil boom the last few years made excellent money. Many now are looking for work. A career in agriculture for those committed to the profession is stable simply because of what we produce.
The point of all this. Young people don’t tend to read newspapers. Older people do. It’s up to those of us a bit older to do two things. Make young people aware of the opportunities in agriculture no matter their background. And push for our junior and high schools to help students explore this as a possible career path.