Guest Blogger: Becky Parker, Project & Partnership Strategist, Ontario Agri-Food Education, Inc.
Agriculture workers needed. Labour shortage affects production. More jobs than agriculture graduates. If you work in agri-food you have probably seen the headlines about the labor shortage in agriculture. The issue is hard to miss. In fact, it has been labelled as one of the leading business risk management issues for the agri-food sector¹. It is a challenge we can’t afford to ignore.
There are several initiatives underway to assist agribusinesses in recruiting and retaining employees. Many of these focus on attracting immigrants, foreign workers and people in second careers to the sector. While each of these audiences are important targets, I believe there is a segment of the population which needs much more attention in the recruitment arena: Generation Z (born after 1995). That’s right. The future workforce is sitting in elementary and high school classrooms
I know what you are thinking. Teenagers are immersed in their cell phones; they aren’t thinking about careers! The truth is that members of Generation Z are already engaged in the workplace and thinking about their future. According to Sparks and Honey, 70% of teens are working in entrepreneurial or freelance jobs, and 60% expect to have 3 jobs by the time they are 30². Wouldn’t you like at least one of those jobs to be in your ag business?
So how do we get Gen Z to choose a career in agri-food?
3 Things the Ag Sector Can Do to Promote Ag Careers to Generation Z
1. Get their attention – quick!
Do you know that the average human attention span is now 8 seconds³? Hello? Are you still there? Congrats if you have made it this far, even if you’ve just been skimming…
The point is that we need to get Generation Z’s attention quickly. They digest information in bite size pieces and will rapidly filter information to see if it is useful to them and worth their time.
If we are going to get Gen Z to pay attention, we need to learn to communicate in their language and on their networks. The marketing of ag careers needs to be done in innovative ways on social media, using limited text. Sorry, but brochures and pamphlets just aren’t going to cut it anymore.
2. Speak to their needs and desires
Generation Z has seen the financial hardships of their parents and their older millennial counterparts. This means they are focused on finding a career that is going to provide financial sustainability. So agriculture needs to market the job surplus we are experiencing. Trust me. Both students and parents pay attention when you share a stat like 3 jobs for every agriculture graduate.
But they aren’t focused only on their future. They are also focused on the future of the planet and humankind. We’ve all heard the stats about our global population increase and the rising demand for food and other natural resources. This is a perfect opportunity for a call to arms for Gen Z. We need them to help us feed the world and save the planet. And guess what? They can do both in an ag career.
3. Provide experiences
Once we have made Generation Z aware of ag careers we need to give them an opportunity to engage. The benefits of experiential education are numerous, particularly when it comes to career education. In fact, it is unrealistic to expect that any young person can really understand what it is they want to do unless they have had a chance to experience it firsthand.
The ag sector is pretty good at offering hands-on work experiences to college and university students already in agri-food programs. But what about high school students? Work experience is something that more Gen Z’ers are getting at a younger age. In fact, 55% of high school students feel pressure to gain professional experience early in their lives.
Many teenagers participate in job shadow days, apprenticeship or co-op programs while in high school. So let’s offer up farms and ag businesses as locations for Gen Z to work, learn and volunteer. Step up to the plate! Phone your local high school and ask how you can connect your business with students.
Together we can excite and engage the next generation to consider a career in agriculture.
Watch AgCareers.com’s Workshops Page and your inbox for more information about a special College Relations and Internship workshop coming April 2016.
Also, please check out the AgCareers.com Career Profiles to learn more about careers that are in high-demand to members of Generation Z.