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What’s Hot in Ag Jobs

Technology is changing how we look at careers in agriculture.

The world is changing rapidly, and agriculture is changing just as fast. New technology means career paths are constantly churning. Meanwhile, ag suffers from a shortage of labor. Following is some advice if you are starting a career or if you want to switch into something that is trending up.

While the ag jobs that increased in 2018 remained consistent with years past – mainly sales and production – there is an increased need for skilled trade workers such as millwrights, mechanics, electricians, and applicators, says Erika Osmundson, director of marketing and communications for AgCareers.com. There is also an uptake in data scientists, precision agriculturists, and technology roles.

“There is a shortage of talent and a need for good people in most career types,” she says. Retirements in key jobs (those baby boomers are checking out) are starting to hit the industry.

“Finding key talent is a challenge,” says Osmundson. “It isn’t just agriculture, but rather most industries, which puts an added strain on ours. Other industries have recognized the value of our people and are looking to agriculture as a place to recruit talent, which further decreases our pool.”

Companies are focusing on keeping the people they have, she says. “Succession planning and compensation evaluation are under way more than in past years. Companies have to get creative with their recruitment practices, looking at outside industries and talent pools that haven’t been considered in the past.”

AgCareers does a regular agribusiness HR review. Based on the most recent results, say Osmundson, “we are hearing an even heftier focus on college recruitment and building the pipeline of talent.”

Companies are investing more in internships and switching to an earlier time line for job offers to compete for the best talent.

mergers matter

Few ag job areas declined in 2018, says Osmundson, but “mergers and acquisitions this past year have certainly influenced the numbers.” While this means reductions in some areas, there have been opportunities in others.

“This has settled down with the completion of some of the larger mergers, but we anticipate continued movement in 2019,” she says.

There is career potential in most areas of agriculture, says Osmundson. The largest numbers of jobs continue to be in sales, research, operations, and particularly skilled trades. “There is a huge demand in this area.”

While the up-and-coming jobs can’t overpower the traditional roles in sheer numbers, they do shed light on the future of our industry, says Osmundson. “These jobs are more influenced by the trends.” Included in those careers are data scientists and data analysts. “With the focus on metrics and measurement, we need people who can evaluate data and tell us what to do with it,”she explains.

Precision agriculturists are trending. “This also provides opportunities for careers that service this technology,” says Osmundson. Sustainability will continue to grow, particularly in the area of water issues, she says.

Communicators are also needed. “We’ll see a continued demand for ag lobbyists, government officials, and communicators to help influence the general public’s perception of agriculture,” she says. “Consumer awareness is driving many decisions, and accurately informing these decision makers will be crucial.”

2018 Top 10 U.S. Jobs Posted on AgCareers.com by Category

  1. Operations (Plant Managers, Grain Managers, etc.)
  2. Sales/Retail
  3. Farm & Ranch/Herdsperson/On-Farm
  4. Accounting/Finance/Asset Management
  5. Business Development/Strategic Management
  6. Maintenance/Repair
  7. Operator/General Laborer
  8. Manufacturing/Production
  9. Technician
  10. Agronomist

Consumer trends drive job growth

Animal welfare scrutiny by consumers has created new jobs in agriculture. Angie Scott, senior manager of talent acquisition with Tyson Foods, says the company now employs around 50 animal well-being specialists “who act as liaisons between our operations teams and plant management, as well as serving as advocates for the animals themselves.”

Transparency in animal care is key, she says. “We need to be more proactive in our engagement with the general public and intentional with our story on social media and other marketing platforms.”

Consumers want to know where their food comes from, says Scott. “Good animal health and proper animal handling have created opportunities for people. We have expanded our focus for talent outside the traditional skill sets required.”

Jobs that are growing, says Scott, include innovation experts, change management managers, continuous improvement project managers, branding professionals, and communicators. 

“This is the new reality for job growth in agriculture,” says Scott. “Animal production is founded on farmers, growers, and livestock production facilities. But in a complex and ever-changing environment, we need diversity of thought and experiences from different industries.”

Careers that support efficiencies in production and processes have seen substantial growth throughout the supply chain, says Scott.

Robotics and automation create exciting career fields, she says, but “we need to connect the dots for people between agriculture and these growing technologies.”

Consumers are inundated with technology, says Scott, and agriculture has to find creative ways to keep pace. “We need to show up at the right time, in the right medium, and in a style that connects with consumers.”

global trends

Ejnar Knudsen is CEO of the ag investment firm AGR Partners, headquartered in California. He sees career trends across the company’s client base. “Ag companies need employees with increasingly sophisticated technical skills in the production and processing areas,” he says.

If you are looking at a marketing and sales career, be sure to focus on trends associated with selling into a global market, says Knudsen.

The specific trends in animal agriculture that the industry needs to watch, he says, are the growth in organic, antibiotic-free, and cage-free food production.

“Job seekers need to understand the importance of integrated farm production, processing, and marketing functions,” he says. 

Jobs Trending Up in Growth by Category, AgCareers.com

  1. Engineering
  2. Analysts
  3. Customer Support
  4. Human Resources
  5. Education/Training Careers in Agriculture
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