Career fair shows demand for ag graduates is high

Farm Forum

Growing up working on his family’s Akron, Iowa farm, Tyler Vreugdenhil clearly remembers the day he informed his dad he would not be around to help out the next growing season.

“I called him one night and said, ‘I got a job this summer.’ He said, ‘I know, you’re working here.’ I had to let him know that plans changed a bit because I had accepted an agronomy internship,'” explains the WinField Solutions Sales Associate and May 2014 South Dakota State University graduate of the first internship he landed during the SDSU Ag & Bio Career Fair his freshman year.

This internship would eventually lead him to his current position with WinField Solutions.

Vreugdenhil’s career fair experience is not unique. Matt Altman, a Production Supervisor with JBS, the world’s largest protein producer, also met his current employer through the career fair.

Altman was among the more than 120 employers looking for students to fill internship and fulltime positions during the 2014 Ag & Bio Career Fair held at SDSU Oct. 15, 2014. “We make a point to attend each year,” Altman said. “We are attracted to the quality of students we have the opportunity to meet. We know and trust the level of education these students receive at SDSU.”

A 2011 Animal Science graduate, Altman says the internships he received through the career fair with John Morrell, USDA Food Safety Inspection Service and Tyson Foods built the resume that led to his current position. “These internships were valuable because they helped me decide what I wanted to do with my degree and who I wanted to work for.”

Like Altman, current students enrolled in SDSU’s College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences are empowered with career options, explained Brad Blaha, with the Academic Programs office for the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at SDSU.

“Nationwide there is a huge deficit in ag and bio graduates – upwards of 30,000 more jobs than there are graduates to fill positions,” Blaha said. “Although it is a problem for employers, it is a great opportunity for our students because it means they will have jobs waiting for them when they graduate.”

The demand for ag and bio graduates was evident in the record turnout of employers who showed up for the annual career fair attended by more than 900 students. “The College’s programs are well respected throughout industry,” said Barry Dunn, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and Director of SDSU Extension. “I attribute this success to the leadership and talent among the faculty and staff as well as the caliber of students we attract as the state’s only Land Grant institution.”

Blaha added that many degree areas within the college have placement of more than 95 percent, with Dairy Manufacturing graduates experiencing 100 percent placement and Agronomy graduates experiencing 98 percent placement. “It’s an exciting time to work in the agriculture industry,” Blaha said.

Trevor Larson would echo this statement. The sophomore Agriculture Education Major from Hamill, S.D., spent his summer working as an agronomy intern for a local agriculture cooperative and helping out on his family’s ranch.

“There are so many opportunities, that I have plenty of career choices within the agriculture industry. With my agriculture background, I know I want to stay involved with this industry until the day I can return to my family’s ranch full-time,” says the fourth-generation rancher.

Along with gaining hands-on agronomic experience, the internship also provided Larson with the opportunity to develop time management skills. “I was basically working two jobs this summer. One at the co-op and one on the ranch; to do both well, I had to prioritize how I spent my time. I put in some long hours, but it was worth it because I was doing what I love.”

To learn more about career opportunities available to students with degrees in Agriculture and Biological Sciences, visit