MUSCATINE, Iowa—At Muscatine Community School District’s second agricultural career fair, all middle schoolers, along with high school students in agriculture classes, got a firsthand look at agricultural careers beyond farming. As students begin to make decisions about post-secondary education and possible careers, the district hopes to introduce them to a wide variety of excellent options available in Muscatine County.
Ashley Wiebe, an agriculture teacher at Central and West Middle Schools, explained that she and her fellow agriculture teachers at Muscatine High School came up with the idea for the agricultural career fair after challenging themselves to come up with ways to connect students to local businesses and help them know about their options after high school. “Most of these kids haven’t had the opportunity to talk to people in businesses and from colleges,” Wiebe elaborated.
At this year’s agricultural career fair on Jan. 22, approximately 26 different businesses and colleges attended. Area employers including Sinclair Tractor, the Nature Conservancy, Stanley Consultants, Bayer, and Kent allowed students to participate in hands-on activities and ask questions about job opportunities—expanding their knowledge of the different agricultural careers available. Muscatine Community College and several other colleges and community colleges sent representatives as well, talking with students about the kinds of degree programs they could enter to prepare themselves for an agricultural career.
Along with touring the agricultural career fair, students also heard a presentation from Steve Maulberger, Vice President of Crop Risk Services. Maulberger encouraged students to become leaders by embracing creative thinking and talked to them about how changes in agricultural technology have introduced new employment opportunities in the field.
Overall, the career fair’s organizers felt pleased with the way the day went and thought that students took away a lot of useful information from the event. “Hopefully, they’ve seen a new career opportunity and maybe gotten a chance to connect with a college,” said Wiebe.
As a secondary goal, the MCSD agriculture teachers also hoped they helped area agricultural businesses find future employees who can keep local agricultural endeavors growing and thriving and to continue fostering good relationships between the district and businesses.
The businesses, in turn, enjoyed sharing their work with the next generation. “Most of them don’t know all the ag careers available to them,” shared Chris Boar, Community Outreach Coordinator for Bayer Muscatine. By getting to interact with kids and inspire them with all the opportunities the agricultural field holds, Boar hopes to help fill job shortages in agriculture and to provide excellent careers to these future graduates.