The Atlantic Magazine reported that more than half of America’s recent college graduates are either unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a college degree.
The magazine cited Department of Labor statistics that show about 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in a dozen years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent.
If your degree comes from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the statistics change dramatically.
CAFNR’s placement rate for CAFNR majors is about 80 percent with almost all placed in a field related to their degree, said Stephanie Chipman, director of CAFNR Career Services.
“We see a high demand for all of our students who have some knowledge of technology, agriculture and the food sector AND key employability skills such as communication and teamwork,” Chipman explained. “Here at CAFNR, we have a special interest from employers in students from life sciences or who have agricultural backgrounds or meat science. As one example, our Ag Systems Management majors, who have developed a knowledge of both technical systems and business, enjoy a robust and diverse set of opportunities.”
Some of the more talented CAFNR graduates are seeing something rare in many employment sectors, too – sign-on bonuses or relocation packages.
Chipman said some of CAFNR’s largest employers are ADM, Cargill (Meat Solutions Division, in particular), Hyatt, Kansas City Royals, Walt Disney World, MFA, Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow. CAFNR’s enrollment is 3,324 students – a number that has grown 45 percent in the past five years.
Not All Degrees Are Created Equal
Part of the reason for CAFNR’s success in placement is that it offers education in fields where there is strong demand. As The Atlantic noted, not all degrees are created equal. It said that students who graduated out of the sciences or other technical fields, such as accounting, were much less likely to be jobless or underemployed than humanities and arts graduates.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook issued by the government said Agricultural and Food Scientists will see a 10 percent increase in jobs by 2020. The Innovators Guide, an independent research organization, put the rate of increase at 16 percent.
Chipman said she has seen an increase in the number of ag-related employers at career fairs – up from 40 companies in 2004 to 78 this year. The number of ag employers recruiting at Mizzou has increased nearly nine percent over last year.
Natural science managers, according to the handbook, had an average salary of $116,020 per year. Almost 4,000 jobs are expected to be added to this area by 2020. Parks and recreation employment is expected to grow at almost a 20 percent rate in the next few years. Biochemists will enjoy a 31 percent increase in job demand.
Relationships with Key Employers is Key
Chipman said one critical method that boosts the credibility of a CAFNR degree is the relationship the College has formed with important employers.
“Rather than going to career fairs, companies are focusing on building relationships with key educational institutions,” Chipman said. “With offers of employment from industry employers typically going out in the fall, or in some cases early fall, there is a need for companies to identify and recruit talented individuals early. This is likely why internships – and internships for younger students – also continue to increase in popularity.”
Chipman said that it is not uncommon for CAFNR’s excellent job candidates to have three or more offers for full-time employment or internships before Thanksgiving break. “I can think of one of our students, a sophomore, who continues to be pursued by companies even now, even though she is committed to an internship for summer.”
Chipman said that despite the poor economic times, CAFNR is hosting an increasing number of companies who are making first-time visits to MU. “We are appealing to these employers because we have provided them excellent intern and full-time candidates,” she said.
The April 2013 Career Fair, called Career Summits, had company representatives from Veterans United Home Loans, Ostine, Monsanto, Trouw Nutrition International, the Altria Group and DST Systems networking with students discussing such shared concerns as getting the most out of an internship, recruiting the best talent and resumes that win.
It is not just getting potential employer and employee together. Students need preparation, sometimes a lot of preparation, at developing proper professional and social skills. Students get training on how to prepare a winning resume (which is often reviewed by business volunteers), how to dress and act professionally during an interview, and how to quickly communicate how an applicant’s skillset meets the needs of the employer. Students role play with peers before going out on that first interview. To make sure a student can get through a business lunch without job-killing embarrassment, a test lunch is conducted where students practice their etiquette and are reviewed on their successes and failures.
Faculty and alumni in the college participate in career development programming. Often career preparation exercises are integrated into the curricula of CAFNR programs. Students may be required to write a resume for a class or attend the CAFNR Internship Fair for credit within their degree program. The Ag Alumni Association offers not only informal networking support; they also host career programs. Most recently, they hosted the “What I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Started My New Job!” panel to provide tips for students starting a full-time or internship position.