Cultivating the Next Generation in Agriculture
The advancement of Canada’s agricultural sector is largely dependent on its ability to attract and cultivate innovative young minds. It is vital for farmers and industry stakeholders to encourage our rising generations to consider the expanding and fulfilling career opportunities it offers, no matter their interest or skill set.
The truth is we all must eat to survive. Without proper nutrition, we don’t learn, advance or contribute to society. With the world’s population expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, the agricultural industry therefore has a significant responsibility to supply this demand. It also has the opportunity to grow its economic importance as it expands to feed a growing global community. Today, the agriculture industry is a vital driver of the Canadian economy, contributing over $122 billion dollars each year to the national GDP.
However, the agricultural industry faces challenges in properly harnessing this growth, and risks missing out on millions of dollars in potential lost sales. The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council attributes this risk to an aging agricultural workforce, a reality further compounded by the 600 fewer youth entering the sector each year. The number of unfilled positions in agriculture is expected to climb as high as 123,000 within the next decade, leaving a talent gap that risks further hindering the industry’s ability to maintain its economic strength.
It is therefore vital that producers and industry stakeholders work to inspire the next generation to embark on agricultural careers. By investing in educational and community-based initiatives, Bayer wants to inspire and excite youth by showcasing the wealth of opportunities in the sector, both on and off the farm.
Most kids today do not grow up on farms and their connection to the food they eat is limited. Youth need opportunities to understand the agricultural sector and how their interests, such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can add much needed value to the future of food production.
Programs offered by 4-H Canada work to attract young minds to agriculture by providing opportunities for youth to build their skillsets through hands-on, agriculture-focused learning. “Inquiry-based activities, such as the 4-H Science Fair, are vital in developing the young scientists whose discoveries will drive the technological advancements that agriculture needs,” says Shannon Benner, CEO, 4-H Canada. “By empowering students to explore the science behind agriculture, we’re exposing them to a wide range of opportunities they may have never considered before.”
Young people in urban communities, where the sector’s real-life impact may be less visible, also need greater exposure to the industry. The classroom is an important space to build awareness of the opportunities that extend beyond farming and into areas of STEM and business. Agriculture In The Classroom’s ThinkAg initiative allows students to interact directly with careers that await them in agriculture, no matter their skill set or interest.
SOLUTIONS THROUGH SCIENCE
Let’s Talk Science is another Canadian organization who’s looking to help stimulate creative thinking amongst youth. The organization’s mantra is to inspire a passion for STEM amongst younger generations. According to the organization’s website, approximately 70 per cent of Canada’s top jobs, from health care to skilled trades, require some level of STEM education, and yet less than 50 per cent of high school students are graduating with senior courses in STEM. This is an alarming statistic, especially for agriculture, where groundbreaking advancements are required in the areas of digital infrastructure and technology, plant genetics, crop inputs, and food-chain solutions.
“To ensure Canadian agriculture is prepared to meet the growing challenges, it’s not enough to think only locally,” says Kelly Hodgins, an alumni of Bayer’s Youth Ag Summit. “Our future leaders must be globally minded: aware of the interconnectedness of global food systems, and [be] well networked across the world.”
Bayer’s biennial Youth Ag Summit focuses on encouraging youth aged 18-25 to promote and execute innovative solutions that tackle humanity’s need to feed a growing and hungry planet. By interacting with global leaders and delegates from around the world, participants develop the skills to not only execute their own food-security projects, but also become future agricultural change-makers and leaders within their own communities.
SCHOLARSHIPS TO SUPPORT
Interested in ag yet? Bayer, among others, offers university scholarships to help those entering the agriculture and food industry. No matter your passion or talent, Canadian post-secondary schools offer opportunities for our next generation to apply themselves to this exciting sector.
The demands and challenges facing upcoming generations in Canada are real; and for those prepared to tackle them, significant opportunities await. Substantial investment and encouragement to get talented youth into agriculture will not only lead them to admirable careers with purpose, but also help Canada remain a leader in feeding the world.