Search home base for precision agriculture staff

When I was a precision farming instructor, I would get phone calls from agricultural businesses, co-operatives, dealerships and consultants looking for people they could hire. The calls would often go something like this:


“Hi, I hear that you have a good program in precision farming there.”


“Thank you, yes we have a very comprehensive educational program in technology and some really good graduates.”


“Yeah, well we’ve been expanding the precision part of our (insert name here) business and need another good person.”


“What’s the job?”


“Right now we need a (name of job). The person we hire would be working with customers on (insert type of technology).”


“We cover that technology in our classes, so we have a number of graduates with those skills. What type of person are you looking for?” 


“Well, they need to know how to (insert technical skill). But mostly they need to be able to troubleshoot problems; there’s always problems that they have to figure out. 


“Oh, and they have to have a good work ethic; a farm kid that knows how to work until the job is done. 


“And of course they need to be able to communicate; they’ll be working directly with customers so they have to be able to get along with everybody. 


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“But what is really important is attention to detail, and they have to be punctual and organized. Do you have anybody like that?” 


I’m not sure even I meet all those requirements.


The conversation would usually end by me telling the person that most of my graduates already have jobs, but I would do my best to find somebody for them. I would post these jobs on a board in the classroom, discuss them in class and approach specific students that fit the description. 


But in the end, as I told the person originally, most students had jobs already lined up.


As an instructor, I had many jobs besides teaching, and placement manager was one of them. It was a gratifying part of the job and encouraging to see graduates find worthwhile positions.


The absolute truth is that I was not doing much of the actual placement. Students would find their own jobs, often getting a position that was close to home, with a neighbour or where they served their internship. 


Some of these positions would be the same business that suggested they attend college for precision farming in the first place. 


One of the popular things I did for precision ag companies looking for technicians would be to invite them to college for the day. They would send one or two people to talk with my freshman class about precision technology, then to my leadership class about their business and the skills they like to see in their employees, and finally to my second year students about job opportunities. 


For example, one day a major sprayer manufacturing company sent three people to talk with students about their precision support program. 


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By the time they were done discussing the advantages of working with them, I wanted to work there.


One of the representatives invited students to contact her about positions. I’m not sure that they got a single inquiry. Why not? The two main reasons were that students had jobs lined up or they were concerned it wasn’t close enough to their home base.


So as a grand understatement, it seems that there is a need for precision farming technicians. 


How does a company find a few good young people that meet the requirements of my typical caller? The first and most effective step is to search near its home base.


Most agricultural businesses have customers with high school students that are often thinking about careers. 


Visit the local high school ag science classroom or 4-H club meeting as a speaker to find a potential em-ployee. These students like agriculture, technology and working outside. Best of all, they will, in all likelihood, return to the area when done with college. Start talking with them about a career in precision agriculture. 


The second step and shorter-term option is to build a relationship with the local ag technical or community college. It is important to get your foot in the door early and get to know those students before they have a job lined up. 


Even better would be to combine these two suggestions: find a good customer’s high school student and send them to the closest college that teaches precision ag. 


That is one way of creating a few good people for yourself.

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Terry A. Brase is an educational consultant, former precision agriculture educator and author. BrASE LLC. Contact him at precision.happens@producer.com