Stop for a second and think - when you need to make an important decision, who do you go to for support? Who are your influencers?
In this age of endless information, influence can come from many sources. However we can not underestimate the power of peers. Recently, Crowdtap released a white paper entitled "The Power of Peer Influence" where they identified that 92% of people make a consumer decision based on recommendations from people they know. Is there much difference between making a consumer decision and a choice about a career? While one may hold more weight, both situations are still a "sell" and I would argue that millenials are eager to heed the advice of their peers in both respects.
So where does this leave us when it comes to thinking about "selling" a career in agriculture to young people? I think it raises an important point about the messenger(s) we use. We need to ensure we have young faces representing the industry and telling authentic stories about their experiences.
Many organizations already do this well with the use of Ambassador or Champion programs, Here are a few examples:
1. Tasty Careers:
This organization is dedicated to highlighting the career opportunities available in the Food and Drink industry in the UK. They have a great line up of case studies which introduce young people working in the sector. I especially love how they ask them fun questions like "Did you do anything special with your first paycheck?" What a great way to make the person more 'real' and cover material that a young person may actually be thinking about.
2. Consider Ag
I had the opportunity to meet Pheemie Herold while at the Victorian Farmers Federation office in Melbourne. She is a young university student who grew up in the city but has decided to pursue a career in agri-food. Given her experience of being questioned by teachers and friends when she shared her career goals, she decided to step up and be a spokesperso n for the industry. Taking initiative, she has started an organization which speaks to high school students about the opportunities available in the sector. Many of the schools she targets are all-girls schools in urban communities.
Pheemie recognizes the power of peer influence. In her third year of university studies, she is already recruiting first and second year students to be spokespeople for the industry because she fears high school students may not relate to her once she graduates! Talk about foresight! You can follow Consider Ag on twitter @ConsiderAg
3. Young Farming Champions
Anyone who meets Lynne Strong has to be instantly inspired. She is the dynamic woman behind the Art4Agriculture program and the Young Farming Champions. It was amazing to hear about the roster of young people that Lynne has on board for the YFC. These individuals represent a variety of areas within the agri-food sector and receive special training to equip them with skills to be spokespeople for the industry.
Young Farming Champions go into schools as part of Art4Ag programs and speak about what they do, and about hot topics in the industry. The training that they receive ensures that they are able to present themselves professionally and know how to engage the individuals they are speaking to. Check out this video below to hear from some of the YFC's:
All three of these examples show how we can capitalize on young people who have chosen to pursue a career in agriculture. I think that this is something we can do more of, and we can look for ways to connect with high school students through a variety of mediums.
But maybe we should also take it a step further.... let's really have peers talking to peers.
At every high school agriculture program I visited on my Nuffield travels, the teachers highlighted how students are their best sales people. If a student tells their friend about the great experience they are having in the agriculture class or agriculture program, that holds a lot of weight. So let's get those students talking and capture their positive experiences. And let's have industry step up to provide authentic experiences for students in high schools to see what it is like to work in the agri-food sector. It's not hard. Hold a class field trip, or contact your local school to see if they need a co-op placement.
Here in Ontario, we need to do a better job of supporting and working with the Specialist High Skills Major programs. We need to offer more opportunities for 4-H members to share their experiences, and get their friends involved in the program.
So what can you do? If you know a young person who is involved in agriculture, or who is pursuing a career in the industry, support them and encourage them to speak to other young people about why they are choosing a career in agriculture.And if you are a young person interested and/or involved in agri-food, SPEAK UP! Share your #agproud #agcareer Let's put a positive spin on peer pressure!
I was raised as the seventh generation on a mixed livestock farm near Guelph, Ontario. Currently I am living in the beautiful Okanagan region of BC, where my husband works for Blue Mountain Winery. I maintain my close ties to Ontario agriculture through my job with AgScape (Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc.) and hope to bring a national, and global perspective to agricultural issues.