National report details expected job openings in ag, related fields

May 11, 2015  


Allan D. Goecker

Allan D. Goecker
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Nearly 58,000 jobs will open annually across the United States in occupations involving food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment over the next five years, according to an employment outlook led by Purdue University.

The report, released Monday (May 11), was produced by Purdue University's College of Agriculture with grant support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The jobs reflect a need for a highly skilled and trained workforce to support the food, agriculture and national resources industries amid projections of a world population that is expected to grow from 7 billion people today to 9 billion by 2050, noted Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director.

That will create many opportunities for college graduates in those fields, said Allan D. Goecker (pronounced GER’-ker), assistant dean emeritus of Purdue's College of Agriculture and lead author of the report "Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment, United States, 2015–2020."

"These graduates are essential to address U.S. and global priorities of food security, sustainable energy and environmental quality," Goecker said.

The report projects that 46 percent of the estimated 57,900 new job opportunities each year will be in management and business. Twenty-seven percent will be in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the so-called STEM areas. Jobs in food and biomaterials production will comprise 15 percent, and 12 percent of the openings will be in education, communication and governmental services.

Details of the report are available on a website created by Purdue at https://www.purdue.edu/usda/employment. Some highlights:

* While most employers prefer to hire graduates of food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment programs, graduates from these programs only fill about 60 percent of the expected annual openings. Even as enrollments in these programs increase and the job market becomes somewhat more competitive, good employment opportunities for the next five years are expected.

* Growth in job opportunities will be uneven. Employers in some areas will struggle to find enough graduates to fill jobs. In a few areas, employers will find an oversupply of job seekers. 

* There should be a strong employment market for e-commerce managers and marketing agents, ecosystem managers, agriscience educators, crop advisers and pest control specialists.

* Job opportunities in STEM areas are expected to grow, with the strongest markets for plant scientists, food scientists, sustainable biomaterials specialists, water resources scientists and engineers, precision agriculture specialists and veterinarians.

* Women make up more than half of the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment higher education graduates in the U.S.

The report is the eighth in a series of five-year projections initiated by USDA in 1980.

Marcos Fernandez, associate dean of Purdue Agriculture and director of its academic programs, said this newest edition might be the most comprehensive of all. He convened his counterparts from across the country during a joint session of both land-grant and other colleges of agriculture directors of academic programs during a meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in Washington, D.C., to analyze and discuss the data.

"Academic and non-academic leaders from throughout the country - over 70 in all - reviewed a draft of the report and extensively discussed the findings, trends and recommendations with one another and the report's authors," he said. 

Writer: Keith Robinson, 765-494-2722, robins89@purdue.edu

Sources: Allan D. Goecker, 765-463-1269, goecker@purdue.edu

Marcos Fernandez, 765-494-8472, mfernandez@purdue.edu 

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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