Tim Hearden/Capital Press
In the U.S., about 21 million jobs are involved in agriculture, food and related industries. That’s more than 1 out of every 10 jobs in the nation.
For today’s young people, that means opportunity, and lots of it. Jobs are readily available in every aspect of agriculture. It could involve cutting-edge research seeking a cure for a nettlesome animal or plant disease. Or it could involve running the family farm or ranch. Or it could involve repairing and maintaining the equipment on which farmers rely.
Just as important are the support jobs in areas such as the sales, law and finance.
Those many job categories require widely varied backgrounds, experience, training and education.
The options are nearly limitless.
The toughest question any high school graduate faces is this: What’s next? Often that question leads down the path toward attendance at a four-year college or university. Others choose to start their academic career at a community college before transferring to a four-year school. Still others go to vocational school, take part in apprenticeship programs or dive directly into the job market, learning as they earn.
All of the options have their pluses and minuses.
For example, four-year universities offer a lot of opportunities, but they usually come with an outsize price tag. About two-thirds of all students borrow money for college, according to Credit.org, a nonprofit that provides financial counseling. A recent study found that the average student loan debt is more than $35,000.
Unless a student can attract a significant amount of scholarships and grant help, the jump to a college degree will be accompanied by a hefty student loan balance. Those loans will be a huge drag on any young persons as they set out on their own.
However, other educational and training options offer lucrative career opportunities without overly burdensome financial baggage. Last week we reported on some of the many training programs available to young people who want to become a diesel mechanic or heavy equipment technician. Working on tractors, combines and other heavy-duty equipment requires state-of-the-art skills and knowledge, ranging from “turning wrenches” to electronics and computers. When a complicated piece of equipment worth several hundred thousand dollars goes down, only a well-trained technician can get it back on the job.
Many community colleges offer programs affiliated with manufacturers and dealers or similar programs that allow students to gain the knowledge and experience they need to walk out the door and into a well-paying job involved in agriculture.
It’s easy for young people to “freeze up” when it comes to considering careers. In agriculture, there are many options that open doors to well-paying jobs. Not all of them require a four-year college degree.
If a student’s interests lead to college, good. But a fulfilling career does not necessarily require a college degree. The right training can guarantee that.