The opportunities in agriculture are unlimited, according to students and employers I spoke with during the recent Ag Career Day at Iowa State University in Ames.
More than 225 companies and organizations set up booths and about 2,000 students took advantage of the opportunity to talk to the representatives.
"We've seen a steady increase in the number of companies who participate," noted Mike Gaul, director of Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Services at ISU. "Two years ago, the number was around 176."
And, according to at least one recruiter, it's a career fair students don't want to miss. "If students miss this event, the opportunities will be limited by the time the spring career fair rolls around," said Scott Greenfield, Monsanto. "We'll have 98% of our positions for summer internships filled after this fair." Greenfield said he had already talked to students from ISU, the University of Illinois and Purdue University by the time the fair had been open for a couple hours. The line at the Monsanto booth was one of the largest at the fair.
But long lines at two other booths sort of surprised me. One was Apple Creek Whitetail Ranch – a deer hunting preserve in Wisconsin. I wondered why ag students where lined up here, unless they were deer hunters. Cassandra Fitzgerald, a sophomore in dairy science and pre-vet, said she wanted to see about a summer internship "to get my foot in the door in animal health."
The other was the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. McKenzie Smith, an animal science and pre-vet major, said she finds exotic animals fascinating. She is considering a position as a zoo veterinarian.
Careers in ag technology were available. Ag Leader has a variety of paid internships and full-time positions available. "We've had good interest from students, even from states outside Iowa," noted Jenna Royer, marketing communications manager.
Even freshmen were at the career fair looking for internships. Tait Wilson, a freshman in pre ag business sought an internship in sales/marketing/ finance – "anything to do with business," he stated.
Seniors were there, too, looking for full-time employment. "There is lots of opportunity in ag," noted Michael Martin, an ag business major. Martin is seeking a career in ag sales – seed or chemicals.
Ryan Goesen, an animal science major was looking for a career in genetics and animal nutrition, especially nutrition.
Tyler Leete, also an animal science major is interested in the meat industry. "There are six huge players in the meat industry here at the fair," he noted. And he intended to talk to all of them. Leete wants to work in the quality assurance side of the industry.
All three seniors would like to find positions in the Midwest upon graduation but agreed they would be willing to located anywhere. They had several interviews lined up in the days following the career fair. "I'd like to have a job lined up by the end of the year," declared Leete.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived on the ISU campus was the plethora of young men and women "dressed up." The majority of the young men wore suits, had well groomed hair and very few had beards. The ladies were impeccably dressed as well.
However, I did spot a few students in jeans and even a few "cowboy" hats.
The career day was followed by an extensive day of interviews. Gaul said there would be nearly 700 interviews conducted.
So, the future looks bright for today's ag students.