Seed World

A Career with a Growing Future

What can be done to raise awareness about the many exciting careers in the seed industry?

Across the country, Grade 3 students are planting seeds and waiting with excitement for them to grow. How many of those students understand that someday they could work in an industry that focuses on seed development and production and that seed plays a role in feeding a hungry world? With more of the population living in urban centers, few children connect those tiny seeds they planted with the bread they eat or the vendors at the local farmers’ market they visit with their parents. Concerns about the declining enrollment in the agriculture sciences and seed related education programs encouraged the American Seed Trade Association to consider ways to educate beyond the standard Grade 3 curriculum.

“There are a number of employment opportunities in the seed industry because it is such a rapidly changing, technology-driven environment,” says Andy LaVigne, ASTA president and CEO. “There are also opportunities in the seed industry in developing countries. There is growth in the seed industry in all areas and there are several specialities that are in high demand, such as bioinformatics and plant breeding.”

LaVigne says the challenge for the seed industry is to find upper and senior management candidates as the industry grows. He says companies need to train employees to become future leaders. But enrollment at the university level in agricultural programs is reported to be declining and if that trend continues there will be fewer candidates to apply for the increasing number of jobs that are expected to be available in the coming years.

“The economy may be in the tank, but agriculture is not,” comments Allan Van Deynze of the University of California, Davis. “The opportunities in agriculture are growing from understanding biotech to plant breeding.” He says that students don’t have to enter an agricultural program in order to qualify for jobs in the industry because there are opportunities for chemists and nutritionists, to name only two. “Agriculture isn’t just about kicking dirt, there are opportunities in data analysis, statistics, biochemistry and biology in addition to the traditional area of agronomy.”

The challenge identified by the seed industry is informing young people about the opportunities in agriculture and, particularly, in the seed industry in a coordinated approach. For example, the Omaha public school system has put in greenhouses to expose students to agriculture, but this is an uncommon approach. To that end, ASTA has developed a strategy that demonstrates how agriculture is an important component of our daily lives and how it can be a rewarding career path. Beginning in the lower grades, children start to learn about seed. However, the education continues into high school where the focus switches to career possibilities in agriculture. Finally, university undergraduates are made aware of future opportunities in this diverse industry, from local seed sales to plant breeding in developing countries.

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