Our Thoughts On Agriculture Today.
Posted by Edward Romero on September 21st, 2010
Last week I introduced you to the Undergraduate Recruiting and Educational Pipeline (UREP) model as well as some research that should be considered in your agricultural recruiting efforts. This week I will talk about the first of three domain areas in the UREP model. They are Outreach and Recruitment, the 2nd part of the 4-part series I will be sharing with you over the next several weeks. This post will delve a little deeper into the strategies used in Outreach and Recruitment as well as the difference between the two. Please keep in mind the UREP model is designed toward funneling more students into higher education in the fields of agriculture, food, natural resources and related fields.
All strategies to help steer students into Agriculture or convince them of considering a career or major in Agriculture starts with Outreach. For the purpose of the UREP model in this discussion, it starts with high school aged students. NOTE: The model can start well into the lower grades. Conceptually speaking, starting with elementary, middle, or high school aged students in using the model is the same. Where you start, depends on your target audience. For the purpose of this discussion, we are targeting high school students.
For some of you, Outreach and Recruitment are synonymous and probably meant to be the same or used interchangeably; however, they can be distinctly different and can serve a singular purpose, depending on intent of your program or outcome.
Perhaps a couple of definitions can help followed by some explanation.
Outreach: Providing information about Agriculture, food, natural resources, and related fields in order to help students (and parents) make informed decisions about opportunities in higher education without being specific to a particular agricultural department, college, or university.
In short, Outreach is giving students (can include teachers, parents, and counselors as well) information that will help them make an informed decision. Giving students facts about agriculture (not your school) related to careers, majors, employment opportunities, etc. are all part of Outreach. In essence, the student is given information that he or she can use to determine whether they want to consider Agriculture as a viable major or career NOT where they want to attend college. For instance, Johnny can use the information to determine whether a career in Agriculture is right for him. Period.
Perhaps little Johnny is considering several options such as “business”, “law”, “engineering” or any other number of careers. Your competition is not other schools, but rather other careers. More on this later…
The Outreach information can be used no matter where they decide to go to college, which leads me to Recruitment.
Recruitment: Is encouraging students to consider studying (anything… but in this case Agriculture) in a specific department, college, or university. For the sake of this discussion, target audiences can include juniors in high school (depending on time of year), seniors in high school, and transfer students (mostly community college although not exclusive) ready to matriculate to a designated and targeted college or university.
AFTER, you have provided students with Outreach information about Agriculture and the many positive opportunities for them in a variety of degrees found in agricultural programs, colleges, universities; then, and only then, should you try and convince students to come to your school to study Agriculture.
Often times, I get the question, “Why do you recommend this process? Why don’t you start with the recruiting piece first and then give them the Outreach information?”
Well, remember the research I shared with you in the first part of this series. Two pieces of research relevant to the Outreach/Recruitment domain in the UREP model are:
- Perceptions about Agriculture Are Not Always Positive
- Students Will Select Careers They Believe Are Most Relevant to Their Future Success
The literature is riddled with research that shows there is a negative perception about agriculture. In fact, a 2005 national study in the United States found that 41% of the students surveyed had a misconception or image about agricultural sciences. In addition, 33% of the same students surveyed lacked knowledge about employment opportunities and 22% lacked knowledge about fields of study.
Talking about Recruiting first to students who have a negative perception about agriculture or do not know about careers in agriculture or related fields is like talking to the wall. Students really have a hard time understanding the relevance of why they should consider YOUR agricultural school if they do not first believe agriculture is what they should study. You need to help students see the relevance how agricultural careers are significant to their success first, which then:
- makes recruiting easier,
- establishes your credibility with them,
- improves matriculation to your program,
- increases retention once in your program,
- which in turn, boosts graduation percentages.
For all students, graduation is a major milestone. And rightly so!
Of course, there are other variables in the formula for success and graduation. It would be naïve to think Outreach and Recruitment are the only two factors that predicate graduation success, but research shows that if students believe their career choices are relevant to their future, they will most definitely work hard to finish school.
As a side note, how you approach students into convincing them agriculture is their best choice takes practice. As a recruiter, you have a moral and ethical obligation to share accurate information. Being truthful and honest about the opportunities in agriculture, careers, majors, etc. is critical in guiding students into their proper program even if it means it’s not in an agricultural college or program, hence the importance of being knowledgeable about careers in agriculture and related fields. The more knowledgeable you are, the more options you can give students to find their interest, and the more effective you are in your agricultural programming.
Next week, we will talk about Educational Development, the second domain found in the UREP model. This domain addresses some of the factors related to the first domain above – matriculation and retention – and positions the students for graduation.
About the Author: Dr. Edward W. Romero is founder and manager of AgForLife, LLC. He is passionate about recruiting more students into agriculture and believes the agriculture industry offers awesome opportunities for young people. You can follow him via AgForLife, LLC on Facebook or Twitter.