Ninety-three percent of recent graduates of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences report either having a job or being enrolled in an advanced degree program within six months of graduation
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Graduating senior Jessica Rose will soon trade her backpack and classroom desks for a business suit and production lines as one of the newest operations management trainees for Cargill Kitchen Solutions, a Minnesota-based food manufacturing company.
The St. Paris, Ohio, native will earn her bachelor of science degree in agriculture with a focus in food business management in May from The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and will begin working for Cargill’s egg production facility in Lake Odessa, Mich., in June. The company produces egg products for major food companies including McDonald’s and Jimmy Dean Foods.
Rose said CFAES helped prepare her for a career in the food production industry through her classes in food science and involvement in student organizations.
“My coursework in food science and my internship experience has provided me with a great foundation and understanding of how the food industry works,” she said. “Those experiences have also given me the leadership skills that I need to advance to my future career in the food production industry.”
Rose is among a growing number of recent graduates and graduating seniors who are reporting strong job prospects with their agriculture and natural resources degrees in Ohio and nationwide thanks to the growing worldwide demand for food and an increasingly strong agriculture industry, experts say.
In fact, of the 530 CFAES graduates from the 2011-2012 academic year, 93 percent reported having jobs or acceptance into a graduate or professional school program within six months of graduation, said Adam Cahill, career development manager for CFAES.
Of those students, 74 percent report accepting positions in Ohio, which contributes to the state’s overall economic strength, he said.
“Our college is in a positive position in regard to producing students with degrees in industries where the jobs are,” Cahill said.
He said the college’s three signature areas, which are food security, production and human health; environmental quality and sustainability; and advanced bioenergy and bio-based products, align with Ohio State’s Discovery Themes initiative to offer students an education in areas for which employers are increasingly seeking candidates. Ohio State’s university-wide Discovery Themes are food production and security, energy and environment, and health and wellness.
“The jobs are out there for students in our college,” Cahill said. “With the growing demand and interest in food safety and security, higher production values and outputs per acre, careers that focus on anything related to sustainability and environmental issues are where the jobs are.
“No matter what your major is in our college, there's opportunity out there in the agriculture industry.”
Case in point, job postings by employers received in the CFAES career services office increased in 2013 compared to 2012, Cahill said. And the college is on pace to see continued gains so far in 2014, he said. At the college’s recent fall career expo, 105 companies participated in recruitment efforts, an increase of 31 companies compared to the same time last year, Cahill said.
“Employers see the value in our graduates, which has kept them coming back every year,” he said. “Businesses see the value in an Ohio State degree because their education and experiences make them well prepared to be leaders in numerous industries and markets.”
Strong future employment prospects ring true for many recent CFAES graduates and graduating CFAES seniors, said Bruce McPheron, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES.
“We think our graduates are so well placed to compete because we set high expectations,” McPheron said. “We offer them cutting edge classroom education, but we expect them to learn through experiences outside the classroom, as well.
“Required internships, international experiences, undergraduate research, and leadership opportunities in clubs and organizations all connect them with their professors and future employers in unique ways.”
CFAES graduates last year reported an average starting salary of $39,726, with a high of $76,960. More than 200 companies and organizations hired CFAES graduates last year.
The fall job expo also resulted in 300 on-campus job interviews, Cahill said.
Bill Smith with the Helena Chemical Company said the company participates in CFAES’s career expos to recruit for a number of agriculture-related majors. The Tennessee-based company, which is one of the nation’s largest distributors of agricultural inputs, has placed numerous CFAES students in internships throughout its company and was among the employers recruiting students from the college for full-time employment.
“Ohio State students possess the communication and technical skills that Helena seeks,” Smith said, noting that students from the college, as well as from the other land-grant universities the company recruits from, are “well prepared” for future employment.
Marathon Petroleum Company also attended the career fair to find qualified construction systems management professionals with a goal of educating the students about the great coop opportunities that Marathon can provide them, said Matthew Snyder, a project controls specialist with the Findlay, Ohio-based oil company.
“Many construction systems management students see a big oil company there and assume we are not looking for them, but we are,” Snyder said. “We plan to continue to build our relationship with the construction systems management program, and we will also be attending the next career fair.”
Agricultural engineering student Casey Fittro received his bachelor of science degree from the college last December and began his new job Jan. 6 as a paint process engineer managing some 40 employees at the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant in Bowling Green, Ky., which is the company’s Corvette manufacturing facility.
“Since I was a young boy, it’s been one of my dreams not only to contribute to building the Corvette but also to GM,” Fittro said. “So to be able to bring the two together and to score a job right out of college has been a dream come true that I never would have imagined in a million years.
“Thanks to The Ohio State University and my degree in agricultural engineering, I was able to achieve that.”
Fittro credits the work experience he’s had while an undergraduate in various internships as well as the hands-on experience he gained from working in the agricultural engineering labs with his professors in the college’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. U.S. News and World Report ranks the department’s agricultural engineering program 10th nationally.
“My professors and the hands-on lab work helped me to be confident and prepared me for my career and helped me make the leap from student to the professional world,” he said.