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Preparing Students in Agriculture

We recently interviewed Jennifer Hilliard, who is with AgChoice Farm Credit's human resources department. AgChoice has a long history of preparing students for careers in agriculture, including the internship program and the scholars program hosted at Penn State University Park. We recently announced a new Growing Your Career scholarship for students this year and Jen will share more about this opportunity.

 

You've worked with our student programs for many years. Why is support of students in agriculture a priority here at AgChoice

Rachel, that's a great question because it is very important to AgChoice. We aim to promote the learning and education of agriculture and all of its many facets in any way that we can.

The scholars and intern programs are a great way to do this for multiple reasons. One is simply to teach the students what we do at AgChoice and provide them with information on the business or lending side of agriculture that they might not have been fully exposed to yet. The result of that is twofold. They get real world experience that helps further their education and provide them a more whole view when they're in their classes. A lot of times in classes, they don't get much of a real word experience. This provides them with that opportunity.

It also allows us to create a pool of potential future full-time hire candidates that we already know would be a good fit for our association. We think they're probably a good fit for the role. It's a win-win for both groups here. Additionally, we really aim to network with the students. Even if they don't land at AgChoice in the future, we hopefully have them become champions of AgChoice and Farm Credit in general, as they go and land jobs in the future.

The growing your career scholarship is new for AgChoice and special for this year. Tell us a little bit more about the program and how it's more than just a scholarship.
This year we have a great scholarship opportunity available for students who are studying agriculture, whether it is a major or a minor. The scholarship not only provides a monetary award, but it provides the opportunity to spend a couple days at AgChoice shadowing different roles and responsibilities and getting to network with our senior leaders.

This is actually really similar to how we run our traditional intern program, but it's obviously an abbreviated format here. We want students who are awarded the scholarship to understand what we do and to be able to have the knowledge in case they would be interested in Farm Credit in the future.

Can you walk us through the scholarship requirements and how students can apply?

We are accepting applications from students who are studying agriculture at an accredited university who live within the AgChoice territory. The only other requirement to apply is that they have to have completed at least 10 hours of community service in the past year. AgChoice as a whole, is an association that likes to give back to its community. That's super important for us in applicants who are looking to get this scholarship as well.

Applying is super easy. They simply need to go to www.agchoice.com/scholarships. From there, you can apply directly on the website. It's a really easy to fill out form. There are just a couple questions to complete. You would want to attach a copy of your unofficial transcript and there is an essay component. We do ask that you submit at least a one-page essay on a specific topic, and those topics are listed right there on the application site for people to read over and then choose one.

The deadline to apply is April 30th, 2022. We will be selecting five winners in May. They'll be notified via phone call, and then we will coordinate the shadowing and scholarship monetary award as well.

Since you've worked with a lot of students over the years, what words of advice do you have for students preparing for future careers?

I'm glad you asked that question, Rachel. Honestly, it's kind of a tough question, right? I'm sure students are really used to hearing “study hard” or “be as involved as you can in clubs and university things that you can go to” or something like that. That is all a hundred percent true. You really should do as much as you can to make sure that your college time is the best that it can be.

Something else that I think some people overlook is the excitement students can have for a specific career. It’s kind of silly, but here at AgChoice, we truly look for someone who has the right attitude and aptitude to join our team. When I say join our team, I really do mean both as an intern, for a scholarship, for the scholars program, or just for a full-time position in the future. If you're willing to learn about AgChoice and the role and you have the basic skills to do so, we will 100% take you on. We can teach you credit and sales, but it's hard to teach excitement and drive for a role. It's hard to really get that into students or anybody coming in. If you come to the table with that, then you are already really ahead of the game.

As we wrap up here today, feel free to share any other thoughts with our listeners.

Sitting here, I'm out of college for longer than I want to admit at this point, but I will be the first to admit that I definitely should have pursued more opportunities when I was in college. Looking back, I definitely think I could have used my time more wisely, and I think that perspective just comes with age. I think it's really important for students to have these kind of internship or scholarship opportunities where they can really dig into an area where they might not have much knowledge, or they already have an interest in it and they just want to learn more.

These experiences are such a great opportunity for students to find out if they like the role, if they like the company, and if this something that they can see themselves doing day in and day out for years to come. On the other hand, they may find out that maybe this really isn't the role for them or the industry that they want to go into. Scholarships, internships, and scholars programs are such a low consequence way to find this information out and I would absolutely suggest taking as many opportunities like this as possible.

It doesn't have to be a full 10 weeks internship. This scholarship is going to provide the students with three or so days where they get a chance to get into the branch. It’s going to let them know if this is something they want to pursue in the future. Not only is this a great opportunity, but I would encourage any student out there to really grab onto as many opportunities like this as they can.


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