Agriculture’s next generation (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is a professor at Delaware State University.)
One of the best things about my job is that I get to work with young people.
Young men and women, fresh out of high school and starting a phase of their lives where they start honing their preparations for careers in our industry.
Not all of them are sure that they have picked the right major and many of them will end up changing majors while they are here, but oftentimes, these changes are a fine tuning, switching from pre-veterinary science, to animal science, or from plant science to general agriculture.
Some of the young people who I have had the opportunity to mentor know very little about the field that they have chosen.
Their desire to work in ag, may be more about a love of animals, or a love of plants.
Others come to us fresh from the farm and those students usually know what rural life is about.
Those are the young people who do not punch a clock, do not worry about getting dirty and have some basic understanding about what the future holds for them.
Despite our efforts to teach these groups everything we can about the industry, there are a couple of things that are more difficult to get across.
These are the soft skills, that most employers want to see in their employees.
First and foremost, it is critical to be on time.
How do you teach someone to be on time?
In the workforce, it is as simple as firing individuals who do not have that skill.
At the university, it is difficult, but I have heard of faculty member who would lock their classroom door and only allow late comers into the class on pre-determined increments during the class (like 10 or 20 minutes after the start of class).
Those students would then have to scurry around to get their missed notes from other students in the class, or spend the time at the door, trying to hear what is being said as they frantically copy their notes.
It sounds a bit harsh, I know, but it far better than getting into the workforce only to be fired for not having the ability to be on time.
Another critical skill students need to develop is to learn the chain of command.
Sometimes, individuals think that the best thing to do if they have a complaint about a teacher is to go to the top and complain, but in universities just as in the workforce, there is a proper procedure for raising concerns.
Most times, this means starting with the person who you have the complaint with.
Learning how to work out disagreements is part of life.
First and foremost, you have to decide if the problem at hand is really a problem at all. Petty items are just that, but items that involve employee safety, customer service or customer satisfaction are a bigger deal.
I have actually heard of situations where some young people started a job and were quickly labeled a complainer because they seemed to be against everything, almost looking for trouble.
In the end, they too were let go and replaced with a more agreeable person.
We are fortunate in our field that the majority of the folks we work with are genuine people.
Across my 34-year career in Extension and academics, I’ve only come across a couple of folks that I do not like, but through those folks, I have learned that with a little bit of patience, I can work with anyone.
I feel fairly confident that the next generation of folks who will be working in the agricultural sector will do a good job.
Those of us who are going to depend on those folks need to do our part to insure they know they are doing it right when they are doing it right, and also, given some constructive criticism when they are not.
Since individuals working in our industry make up such as small percentage of our overall population, it is only more likely that many of the folks hired into our industry will not come prepared with an agricultural background.
Hopefully, coupled with a good education and exposure to our industries workforce, they will make out just fine.
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