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Last updated: Sat. Aug. 09, 2014 - 06:32 am EDT

Youth urged to consider, prepare for growing job demand in agribusiness

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Job demand in the agribusiness field has been growing in the Midwest and nationwide. But that doesn't mean you will be stuck in or near farm fields.

"This is just not a rural need," said Glenn Augustine, vice president of advancement for the Indiana Youth Institute, which is based in Indianapolis. "Many of these jobs are not in rural areas."

Beck's Hybrids, for example, a major agricultural seed seller, is located just north of Noblesville, which is on the north side of the Indianapolis metropolitan area.

Augustine, who was in Fort Wayne on Thursday, encouraged young people to consider jobs in the agriculture field and to start early in their schooling to prepare for the job they want.

The jobs include ones people often think of when they think of agribusiness, such as operating farm machinery, Augustine said. But agribusiness companies need a wide array of talent, from people working in computer technology and marketing to those doing sales, accounting and legal work.

Educational preparation typically requires at least a high school diploma and certification in a specific skill, such as using a particular computer software program, he said. Most professional-level jobs require a college degree.

Many ag jobs pay well, too.

May 2013 graduates of Purdue University's College of Agriculture who found jobs received an average annual starting salary of $41,298, the Purdue University Center for Career Opportunities reported in February. Starting salaries ranged from $54,000 a year for agricultural and biological engineering majors to $24,132 for a job in forestry and natural resources.

Agribusiness job creation may not be as strong in northeast Indiana as in some parts of the country, but there are openings as people retire or move into other jobs, said Steve Engleking, extension educator for agriculture and natural resources at the LaGrange County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service. He also believes there is good job security.

"You talk about a career field that is recession-proof — people have got to eat," he said.

Engleking said agriculture jobs fall into three main areas: farming, processing what is grown into products and supplying goods farmers need to do their jobs.

To find out what job may be the best fit, Engleking and Augustine both suggest young people do a self-inventory of skills and interests.

For example, dairy farming may look like fun on a pleasant, sunny day, Engleking said. But are you prepared to milk cows 365 days a year, in good weather as well as in rain and winter cold?

Research the duties of various jobs and ask agribusinesses about the education needed for a desired position and whether they offer internships or job shadowing, he said. Young people thinking of starting their own businesses need to inventory what resources they have available to them and what resources are needed to start the business.

Indiana Youth Institute's website, www.iyi.org, offers the "Drive of Your Life" interactive computer program, which helps young people explore their interests and talents and learn about careers that fit those attributes.

Augustine recommends young people start thinking seriously about future careers in middle school. He also encourages parents to help their children identify their interests and talents.

In high school and college, students should talk with guidance counselors about careers they are interested in, Augustine said. Students also should find out what a college will require to earn a degree in that field.

College students preparing to graduate or recent graduates still searching for employment should research what agribusiness companies have operations in Indiana, Augustine said. They also should find out whether a company contracts out for services, such as with an advertising agency, because the contractors also could be a source of employment.

At college job fairs, students should talk with representatives from agribusiness companies to learn more about job opportunities there, he said.

kkilbane@news-sentinel.com


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