When it comes to comes to telling the story of production agriculture to the next generation, things need to change. Agriculture today is much more than plows, sows, and cows, but that message is not getting through to today’s K-12 students, says Beth Bechdol, head of AgriNovus. She told HAT that today’s students don’t see agriculture as an interesting or exciting career path, “We are finding that in that K-12 space there is really a lack of awareness about what jobs and career paths in agriculture involving science and technology really entail.” She added this does not mean we should negate encouraging young people to consider jobs in production agriculture.
Bechdol said the message of technology in agriculture needs to be the focus. “It is changing the focus on what jobs in agriculture really are,” she stated. “We have to up our game and make the story a little more 21st century, forward looking, and exciting.”
Bechdol adds the agricultural workforce of the future will need a different skill set than many in agriculture have today, “Employers are looking for more high tech professionals. They are looking for people who have skills in computer science, informatics, communications, or finance skills. We need to figure out how to attract more of those kind of people to agriculture.” According to a study, Indiana’s workforce development and talent generation in core occupations directly related to agbiosciences is already well aligned with industrial demand. However, Indiana’s agbioscience industry sector struggles to attract the number and quality of individuals to serve in allied occupations or industry support disciplines such as business, IT, and skilled productions that have key roles and functions across multiple industry sectors.
Bechdol addressed these issues in a presentation to the Kosciusko Community Foundation’s Barn and Business Breakfast. The annual event brings together area ag and business leaders to discuss common concerns and problems.