Published in NACTA Journal, Volume 58, Issue 4, December 1, 2014, pages 330-334.
Industry partners and College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) faculty have observed students entering the college possessed fewer agriculture experiences and skills than their predecessors. They have also lamented the increasing pressure to develop industry-ready students, when the gaps are ever wider between their experience and skills entering college and what are required upon graduation. During the 2011 spring quarter, all CAFES students (N = 3,366) were sent an electronic survey that resulted in 911 responses (27% response rate). Three quarters of the students were female and one third were seniors. Prior to enrolling at the university, 34% had the opportunity to enroll in secondary agriculture courses but only 25% actually did enroll. Of those who enrolled in secondary agriculture courses, 15% enrolled all four years of high school. Only 28% were raised in a rural setting, with 12% on a farm and 12% on a ranch. When asked to identify what or who influenced their decisions to enroll in a CAFES major, the leading factor was parent(s), followed by a campus visit. Despite CAFES' large enrollment, former FFA and 4-H members are a minority, even with the work these organizations do to prime students for careers in agriculture. Recommendations to increase enrollment of students with agricultural experiences and skills include: encouraging students to attend campus events early in their secondary careers to capture interest and foster relationships, charging university faculty to attend local meetings and visit programs on their travels and crediting experiences and skills gained through organizations such as FFA and 4-H on admission metrics to ensure students entering CAFES have valuable experiences and skills to build upon.