AgriCAREERConnect 2022 – invigorating interaction between industry and students
Part 1: Feedback from Students
What did more than 45 companies and industry organisations, seven universities, three colleges of agriculture 1500+ students had in common a few weeks ago? They all 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 received astonishing feedback from almost 180 students, who were in general very pleased with the event and what was achieved. Some individual comments included that students gained knowledge on how and where their qualifications would be applicable, and they learned more about internship opportunities and career opportunities in general. It also gave them further direction for studying and upskilling, and encouragement to work harder. Several students remarked that they realised that there are other fields of specialisation such as agribusiness, data analytics, marketing and sales, and they realised that they would have to do additional courses to improve their skills and knowledge. Many of the comments resonated with the general perception that it was a valuable event to attend, and herewith a few:
“ACC 2022 showed the students where to apply for jobs with their qualification/s”.
“It was great seeing companies that I did not know myself.”
“They have shown that farming or agriculture is a field that has many doors that need to be opened by the youth through which they can improve modern farming.”
“Companies have shown how technology can be integrated with modern farming”
A student who is studying IT has also benefitted from ACC 2022: “I found Agrigistics the most relatable company to my degree (IT) because I witnessed how I can branch off into an integrated agricultural company after completing my studies. Other companies also demonstrated the importance of well-developed systems to ensure they meet the demands of their customers.”
Some students felt they did not get enough information due to the limited time and that the presenters were not always speaking about things relevant to their degree/field of studies, although the video was relevant.
A student commented that postgraduate degrees in Agribusiness are not funded by most companies and that there are few internship opportunities for people with an Agribusiness degree.
- More interaction between participants.
- Make the sessions longer.
- Have ACC as a face-to-face event, instead of an online event.
- Put all participants in the same room and get more companies to do presentations.
- Involve high school learners.
- Involve more companies on Soil Science, Plant Physiology, Crop Production, Agronomy, Consumer Science, Maths (statistics orientated specifically) more Agribusiness Management topics.
- “More prizes to be won if it is online, more talk about how to break into the industry.”
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) more Agribusiness Management topics. We are in the hands of companies 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. The same applies for 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.
AgriCAREERConnect values the feedback from students, companies, and universities, and will investigate changes to improve the experience of all participants. There have been several calls for face-to-face interaction, which bring additional challenges – it is very costly for companies to bring display material and people to campuses across our country for an onsite career expo, for instance. We are however engaging actively with companies and organisations to discuss ideas to improve AgriCAREERConnect!