AgriCAREERConnect 2022 exciting interaction between industry and students

Part 2: Feedback from Companies, Industry organisations and Universities

More than 45 companies and industry organisations, seven universities, three colleges of agriculture and 1500+ students participated in the annual AgriCAREERConnect (ACC) event, a unique virtual gathering space, where the industry showcased the exhilarating world of agriculture and food with short videos and interacted with students and graduates. Participating training institutions included: Universities of Pretoria (UP), Stellenbosch (SU), Free State (UFS), North-West (NWU), Limpopo (UL), KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Mpumalanga (UMP) and three colleges of agriculture, Cedara, Glen and Elsenburg.

We are pleased to say that ACC is improving year after year, with better quality of interaction between companies, industry and students/ graduates each year.  Overall positive feedback was received from companies and industry organisations regarding the effectiveness of showing a short company/organisation video at the beginning of each breakaway session. 59% of the feedback respondents rated showing a short company/organisation video at the beginning of each session as EXCELLENT, and 41% rated it GOOD! Furthermore, the general feeling was that 15 minutes is the ideal length of time for breakaway sessions, although some remarked that more time is needed.

Other feedback from industry was that the sessions were informative and that the videos were an excellent idea.

As you can see, Agrijob is dedicated to improvement, not only of personal lives through job enhancement, but also by facilitating interaction between industry and the youth, by working in close co-operation with companies, industry organisations, and universities.

A few suggestions from companies and universities on how to improve ACC next year:

  • Keep on revising the program (this includes possibly increasing discussion time) and mitigating technical glitches.
  • Advertise more to attract more students.
  • Maybe have ACC as a face-to-face event.
  • Group universities together.
  • Ensure some of the facilitators are better prepared.
  • Improve interactions and questions from the students.
  • Have a short break between sessions.
  • Ensure the presentations/videos are relevant to the students watching.

    One respondent remarked, “I wish the students realised the benefit of this fantastic initiative – perhaps more intervention from higher university levels encouraging participation?”, and another stated, “Maybe pre-questionnaires from students so we can design a video to answer more questions and showcase more in the video, for example career and graduate opportunities at companies so that the fair is not only about post-study opportunities but also about job roles.” This could also include things like what to say in a cover letter.

      From Agrijob’s side, we would like to assure you, the votes are in, and we have heard you. We will do our absolute best to make ACC even more successful next year!

      A couple of things to note:

      From the organisers’ perspective, the ACC team always approaches companies and organisations across a wide spectrum in agriculture and food to participate. The financial model of ACC relies on companies and industry organisations having to pay a fee to participate. Nearly 70% of participating companies and organisations paid to participate at this year’s event, which is an improvement on last year’s 50%. Students also remarked that they would like to see more companies in Soil Science, Plant Physiology, Crop Production, Agronomy, Consumer Science, Maths (statistics orientated specifically) and more Agribusiness Management topics. We are in the hands of companies and organisations that are willing to participate (and pay a fee!). For example, companies in soil science and plant nutrition have been declining to participate over the years, except for Omnia, which we welcomed to this year’s event for the first time. Thank you, Omnia! The same applies to companies involved with GIS, data analytics and remote sensing. The organisers always try to present a balanced programme, resulting in companies being approached that don’t have a budget to pay for participation. This is however not sustainable and not fair to companies who are paying to participate.

       As for face-to-face interaction, we face (excuse the pun!) various challenges. It is very costly for companies to transport display material and bring their staff to campuses across our country, for an onsite career expo. Also, how would the venue be chosen fairly?

        Proposed new concepts for 2023:

        The desire to have a face-to-face event was by far one of the most mentioned comments, by all that participated in ACC 2022. We are therefore considering introducing a “hybrid” model ACC.

        This would mean face-to-face interaction, as well as live streaming for those that cannot attend in person. Once again, recordings of ACC can be made and uploaded so that students can re-watch their favourite moments/videos and use the material as guidance.

        We propose it working in the following way:

        • Host a short career programme at an actual industry event, where a group of students can engage with companies on a rotational basis.
        • The company/organisation presenter presents for 15 minutes.
        • Students and companies interact afterwards, and the event is live streamed to all participating tertiary training institutions.

        We encourage universities to enable students to attend this event, and the private sector can perhaps sponsor a few students.

        Examples of events are:

        • CGA Citrus Summit, Gqeberha, 14-16 March 2023
        • NAMPO, Bothaville 14-16 May 2023
        • International Fresh Produce Conference, Cape Town, 2-4 August 2023
        • Animal Feed Manufacturers Association (AFMA) Symposium, Sun City, 6-7 September 2023
        • NAMPO ALFA, Bothaville, 28-30 September 2023

        As stated, we welcome your input. If you would like to share your thoughts with us, you are welcome to email Marianne, Majella or Tanja.

        Here’s to making the most of every opportunity!

        Compiled by:  Marianne van der Laarse and Tanja Werle