Looking Ahead to the Next Generation of Agriculture
Raechel Sattazahn, knowledge center director with AgChoice Farm Credit, recently shared information about the future of careers in the food and agriculture industries and resources available to help spread the word about opportunities. Listen to the full podcast episode with Raechel here.
Careers in Agriculture
Today’s agriculture and food industry employs about 579,000 people across the commonwealth. With linkages to other aspects of our economy, it is estimated that agriculture supports one of out every 10 jobs in Pennsylvania.
The PA Department of Agriculture estimates that from 2015 to 2025, about 75,000 new and replacement job opportunities will be available in the industry. This is about 15% of the existing workforce, and many of those folks will likely not have traditional agriculture backgrounds.
In 2015, the ag and food industry was broken down in the following segments:
• Production agriculture which encompassed about 28% of jobs
• Food processing which was 40% of jobs
• Forestry, Lumber and Wood Products which as 20% of jobs
• And Landscaping Services which was 11% of jobs
Even more interesting is the PA Department of Agriculture's work to identify the most in demand occupations for the food and ag industry over the next decade.
The list is quite long, but let me share a few with you:
• Farm workers and farm managers
• Food manufacturing workers in a variety of areas, from bakers and butchers to truck drivers, forklift operators and inspectors
• A variety of workers in forestry and related industries
• Technicians in conservation and natural resources
• Veterinarians, Vet Techs and Vet Assistants
Are we doing everything that we can to ensure that these future position openings are being filled by qualified workers? What steps can we take now to set people on a path to success? If these jobs aren’t filled, that leaves gaps within our ag and food system, and with our role of providing safe, wholesome food to consumers. That can have big impacts. Our recent experiences in the food system related to COVID-19 showed us what can happen if workers are sick and unable to do their jobs. I’m sure there will be advancements in technology because of our pandemic experiences but some jobs will not be able to be replaced by computers.
One of the greatest hurdles in agriculture is the misconception is that you need to be a farmer to be in involved in agriculture. Children in today’s elementary schools aren’t even considering the opportunities that exist in ag and food.
Career Resources to Share
This leads me to my next area of discussion – resources that can help all of us better discuss careers within our industry.
In agriculture there is a wonderful sense of community; and that’s something special – you don’t necessarily see that in other industries. This sense of community can be extremely helpful with initiatives like we are talking about today, workforce development.
Sure, a farm can promote and recruit a new farmhand or a food manufacturer could post on job boards about an open position, but that doesn’t get to the greater need. That is the need to bring awareness for careers and career paths in our industry. How do we educate and entice youngsters to consider opportunities and work towards a career in our industry, whether that requires additional schooling after high school or not?
That’s where a new resource can help. A website at agandfoodcareersinpa.com is designed to open students’ eyes to careers in food and agriculture. This website is offered through a collaborative effort of organizations interested in this topic, including AgChoice Farm Credit and is a resource for the entire industry. I encourage you to check it out – again, that’s agandfoodcareersinpa.com. You’ll notice short videos of real workers in a variety of positions across our industry here in Pennsylvania, basic information on each career, educational requirements and even a link to current salary information. If you are a middle or high school educator, there are downloadable scavenger hunts for you to use with your classroom to explore the website.
For students with an interest in starting a farm or returning home to a farm, AgChoice has developed additional resources to help put that student on a path to success. We know that building good personal finance habits is important and have created a series of learning modules for students on Personal Finance 101 and Getting a Loan. Those modules are available at agchoice.com/teacherresources and students can access them directly, or they can also be used in a classroom setting.
These resources that I discussed aren’t just for you to know. They are to share. I encourage you to check out the links in our podcast show notes to visit them directly and share with others.
The future success of Pennsylvania agriculture depends on our future workforce. The steps that we take now to expose youngsters to career opportunities within our industry will position our farms, food manufacturers and suppliers and farm and food-related businesses to thrive.
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