The first career portal focused only on the agricultural and food sector was launched by Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of AgriSciences in October last year.

This comprehensive portal for the agricultural sector is the first of its kind in South Africa and on the continent. It is the brainchild of Prof Danie Brink, dean of the faculty.

This web portal is expected to contribute significantly to students’ career development and to help deliver on industry needs, Prof Brink said at the launch event. Students in their final year, as well as postgraduate students in the faculty and roleplayers in the agricultural industry, attended the event.

“We believe this portal will help to unlock new opportunities for our students and also benefit the agricultural sector,” Prof Brink said. “We want to see our graduates entering the marketplace successfully.”

The faculty has taken the initiative to provide seed funding for the establishment of the platform. It will be extended to other South African universities and tertiary institutions and, possibly, to international and private universities.

The private sector is ready to invest in this initiative as they experience challenges to recruit suitably qualified graduates and experienced staff, he indicated.

The requirements of the agricultural sector and educational needs of students have changed significantly over the last few decades, Prof Brink pointed out. “Less than 20% of our students in the faculty now come from an agricultural background. We believe that this portal will help to build bridges between our students and roleplayers in the sector.”

The agricultural sector and related industries are complex, added Rico Basson, Executive Director of Vinpro. “We need a new generation of multidisciplinary experts that are passionate about agriculture.”

The platform is a useful tool that enables the agricultural sector to better reach students, said Monika Basson, coordinator of undergraduate recruitment and marketing at the faculty. Students, graduates, and people already working in the agricultural sector will be able to register as job seekers and apply for positions, while agricultural companies can gain access to candidates by advertising job opportunities, internships (fixed- or short-term) and even bursaries.

This portal fills a huge gap in the industry, according to Marianne van der Laarse, Managing Director of Agrijob. “The current trend of young people showing reluctance to study in agricultural science is by now well-known and is of great concern to the agricultural industry,” she said.

“Discussions with companies and organisations in the agricultural and agri-food supply chain revealed a shortage of agricultural science graduates with appropriate skills. However, from a recruitment perspective, this perception from industry is contradicted by the rather large number of agricultural graduates and postgraduates that are struggling to find employment or internship opportunities.”

“We are, therefore, very excited about this interactive, comprehensive platform that will provide access to possible agricultural employment opportunities.” According to Van der Laarse, the platform also enables students to become proactive about their own career development. “Be ready to stretch yourself and operate outside your comfort zone when you enter the job market and the workplace. Pursue internships and do extra courses to gain more skills. It is your career story – take ownership of it,” Van der Laarse concluded