Iowa State University
INDEX A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

9-18-08

Contacts:

Ron Deiter, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, (515) 294-5771, rdeiter@iastate.edu

Mike Gaul, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, (515) 294-4725, mikegaul@iastate.edu

Dan Kuester, News Service, (515) 294-0704, kuester@iastate.edu

Growing marketplace seeks Iowa State University agricultural business majors

AMES, Iowa -- Almost 100 percent of Iowa State University agricultural business graduates land jobs right out of school, according to ISU officials.

Mike Gaul, director of ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Services, says that demand for these graduates is rising rapidly and ISU is happy to provide the supply.

"One of the best indicators that agricultural business students are in demand is that starting salaries are up," said Gaul. "The last few years, salaries had been pretty flat. Now, salaries are up and we've even seen a return of signing bonuses, which we hadn't seen in a number of years."

Greg Twist, senior vice president of marketing for soy and corn processing at Ag Processing Inc., a company that recruits agricultural business graduates, agrees.

"There is an increased need for agricultural business majors," he said. "Agriculture is being asked to fulfill its traditional role of feeding the world while also lessening the dependence on fossil fuels through renewable energy like ethanol and biodiesel. The need for both food and fuel from the same crops has increased employment opportunities in agriculture."

Gaul says that companies are using signing bonuses strategically in order to get students to commit early to job offers.

One example, Gaul added, is $5,000 signing bonus recently offered to an agricultural business student. If the student accepts the job offer by mid-September, the student gets all $5,000. If the student waits until November, the bonus is cut in half. If the student waits until December, the bonus is not be given.

"They want these students to get on board early," said Gaul.

With the widely documented national interest in biofuels, biorenewables, food and other agriculture-based and green initiatives, companies working in these fields want to recruit the best and brightest, according to Gaul.

One of the best avenues employers use to recruit prospective employees is through the Fall Ag Career Day sponsored by Gaul's office. This annual event serves as a way for students to meet with company representatives who are actively looking for employees.

"We'll have 1,200 students go through our fall fair," says Gaul. "It is the largest of its kind in the nation. Freshmen to graduate students come to it. We also have students from Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and other areas coming here to meet with employers."

Iowa State invites students from all Iowa community colleges and other Midwest colleges that may have interested students.

This year's event is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21, in the Memorial Union at ISU. With 160 companies at the fair looking for students, it may be the largest Ag Career Day ever at ISU.

"The average ISU Ag Career Day attendance has been about 150 companies, which is very large compared to other agriculture career fairs across the country," said Gaul. "Last year we had to put a few companies on the waiting list. This year we could have more than 20 companies on the waiting list that unfortunately we just don't have room for.

"This year there will be 148 companies in the Union -- that's the most we can squeeze in there -- and 12 more companies will have their exhibits in tents on the north side of the Union. This type of demand was one the major reasons we added a Spring Ag Career Day last year."

More and more companies are trying to get into the career fair and also trying other strategic avenues to gain the attention of students on campus.

Companies are sponsoring club meetings on campus, pre-career day discussions, job shadow opportunities, industry visits, picnics, golf tournaments and a host of other activities to get noticed by students, according to Gaul.

"I just talked to a rep from a company in Omaha," said Gaul. "Our students are so highly thought of that he wanted to know if we would ever consider moving our career fair up a month. He said that he wanted to meet with our students before he met with other students from around the country because he uses our kids as the standard for what type of student is available."

"ISU does a nice job of preparing students for the real world," said Scott Goodew, regional underwriting manager at Federated Insurance, a company that recruits students here. "The students I have worked with bring a lot of energy and passion to the position. They are very capable of multi-tasking and time management, and they communicate well."

Agriculture business majors who are especially sought after are those who have been members of the Agricultural Business Club (ABC) on campus. The club develops leadership and career skills in students.

In July, the club was named the National Outstanding Chapter for the third consecutive year and also received the National Creative Club Award from the American Agricultural Economics Association.

"At our May ABC meeting last spring, I asked all the graduating seniors who had been involved in club leadership roles to stand up and talk about their future," said Ron Deiter, co-advisor to the club and professor of agricultural economics. "Every one of those students had already accepted a job after graduation."

Deiter says that good students are attracted to the club because they know they will get the value-added tools to compete in the job market.

"There is a market right now for these grads, but they know that they need to set themselves apart," Deiter said. "In the ABC, they get experience in educational activities, service, recruitment, fundraising and other activities that make them more attractive to companies.

"One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing freshmen come into this club who want to get involved. Some don't have their leadership skills honed very well yet. So you watch these freshmen come back and grow and get better. By the time they go out and look for a job, they are pretty polished and professional. It's great to see them grow and develop."

Deiter says there are other advantages than preparing for a career. The club helps incoming students in their transition to college.

"The club gives the students a chance to socialize, meet other people with similar interests and feel like they belong here at ISU," says Deiter. "I think being a part of the ABC also helps ISU with student retention."

"We've got great students here," said Gaul. "It all comes down to the quality of students in our programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the quality of the programs we have that get our graduates prepared for life after college and out in the working world. It is a good time to be a student in our college, but there is no guarantee that a job is waiting for anyone at the other end of the stage when they graduate. We would like to think that most of our students understand the equation for success and have positioned themselves well for that first job upon graduation."

Gaul and Deiter try to keep employers aware of the students coming out of the program. They are also eager to know what employers are looking for.

Every summer, they visit agriculture-based companies around the Midwest to ask the companies what skills they are seeking in graduates. They also let employers know what ISU students are doing to prepare for the job market.

The companies that attend the career fair include government agencies, food companies, horticulture companies, natural resource organizations, traditional agriculture companies and many others.

For a complete list of the companies attending the career fair at ISU, go here.

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Quick look

More and more companies are trying to get into the career fair and also trying other strategic avenues to gain the attention of students on campus.

Quote

One of the best indicators that agricultural business students are in demand is that starting salaries are up. The last few years, salaries had been pretty flat. Now, salaries are up and we've even seen a return of signing bonuses, which we hadn't seen in a number of years.

Mike Gaul Director of ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Services