December 3, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Pennsylvania State University
Department of Animal Science
Phillip Clauer: Virtual career fairs and interviews, fewer in-person visit interviews.
Phillip Clauer: Some of the same skills as in the past
-Communication skills, so cases ability to communicate in Spanish
-Things that demonstrate initiative, self-starter
-Dependability and work ethic
- Internships and related work experience
Phillip Clauer: -Same as in the past, depends on the area of interest and expertise in Animal Sciences
-People have to eat, and animal protein is a significant industry that is always looking for promising future leaders. Careers in the Animal industry have not diminished.
Dr. Phil Gardner Ph.D.: Technology - Data Science - the ability to interpret trends of data tracked in livestock production and then to prescribe changes in management. This is also huge in crop production.
Automation - in animal care and food processing to lower demand for human labor because there are shortages.
Dr. Phil Gardner Ph.D.: During the quarantine, we had strong demand for both interns and graduates - there were many programs at MSU that had many internships canceled due to covid. Americans now realize the importance of our food industry and supply chain as we all saw shortages in the stores - food production is essential. Areas such as poultry, swine, dairy and meat industry are winning the student recruitment battle because of competitive salaries. The demand for talent in production ag has been strong. We also have a few contract research organizations recruiting for study technicians. I predict that the trend of more animal science jobs than interested students will continue in the future.
Employers are offering jobs if students are doing a great job in their internship. MSU also had two-year programs offered through our Institute of Ag Technology, last fall. We had a first-year student get offered an internship in the fall with Kalmbach in Ohio, halfway through his summer internship, and he was offered a job. Because his courses are now online this semester, he is staying in Ohio, starting his new job, and finishing up his classes online.
Andrew Parks Benson: I am inclined to think that there will not be an impact on the hiring of graduates from our department, despite the threat of a major recession. In a typical year, there are approximately 58,000 job openings each year in the food, agriculture, renewable resources, and environment, but only 60% of these jobs will be the field with expertise in the respective areas. Students are often unaware of animal science careers and job opportunities.
For example, careers in the poultry industry are readily available, but poultry is an area often overlooked by students, and those that graduate are not meeting the employment demand. Furthermore, nationally, the number of poultry-specific programs across the U.S. has declined from 44 in the 1960s to six in 2020. This greatly reduces student exposure to educational and career opportunities in the poultry industry. To highlight this difference, 100% of our graduates from Spring 2020 have either started a career or have enrolled in graduate school (6 in careers; 5 in graduate/professional school ). According to the 2016 U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, Poultry Feeds America publication; there are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 jobs in the poultry or allied industries for college graduates. The industry is vital to Georgia's economy.
In 2018, the industry was responsible for as much as $48.55 billion in total economic activity throughout the state, creating or supporting as many as 196,114 total jobs. Thus, there is always a need for leaders in the poultry industry, so our problem has never been placing students in rewarding and lucrative career paths. Our problem is often recruiting students into our program, and trying to meet the need for qualified managers and leaders in the state's largest industry. According to the USDA Agricultural Projections to 2029, international poultry trade and consumption is projected to expand the most among the livestock sectors, with a predicted global increase of 1.8 percent annually from 2020 to 2029. Thus, not only do we see an increased need here in the U.S., but there are a growing number of opportunities internationally.
As far as a direct link to the coronavirus, I cannot think of any substantial impact on career opportunities. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is starting to have an increased presence in poultry production. However, it is still a long way off from being able to handle the variability that comes with processing a chicken (unlike "widgets," chickens, like all organisms, have variation in their size and shape). There will likely come a time where lower-wage jobs are overtaken by A.I., but I don't see a change in the demand for graduates with expertise in poultry production, which is seemingly always adapting (rather than be consumer preference, genetics, nutrition, management). Also, the overwhelming number of available jobs, if impacted, wouldn't drop to the level that the value of our poultry science degree wouldn't result in 100% placement. The poultry industry, currently, has to outsource many of the jobs to graduates from other programs, but always gives preference to those with a poultry science/avian biology degree.
Andrew Parks Benson: There are opportunities all around the U.S. and, as noted above, internationally. Most of the jobs are in the Southern US (broiler belt) and Midwest, where poultry production is largely based. Many of our graduate students, who are often international, take advantage of the global growth of the industry. However, our undergraduates often prefer to find a position close to home. Thus, although poultry production is denser in certain areas, there isn't a geographical limit on where the career can take you.
As far as finding the positions, most of the integrators (Tyson, Pilgrim's, Sanderson) have websites with prominent career links and webpages. For undergraduates, the best route to securing the position (and seeing if you would like a career in the poultry industry) is to complete an internship. All integrators have an internship, and many of them are impressively formal and provide a comprehensive view of poultry production. Most of our graduates find both internship and career opportunities at The International Production and Processing Expo held annually in Atlanta. In fact, most of our undergraduates come out of the Expo with multiple offers in hand (which helps with that 100% placement of graduates).
Andrew Parks Benson: As mentioned earlier, I think A.I. will have an increased role in all industries, and the poultry industry isn't an exception. However, I don't envision too much of a change in the management/career paths of our graduates (although this is likely due to a lack of my foresight). One silver lining to the increased use of online learning is that our students are getting ample training in using technology for commination and collaboration.
I do envision that one thing that may come out of this pandemic shift of normalizing the use of technology for communication and dissemination is that poultry integrators will begin to rely on this method to communicate directly with their farmers and other shareholders. Many of our graduates start out as broiler technicians who visit farms and disseminate information between the poultry integrator and the farmer. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of this communication starts to increasingly transition to online platforms.