Date: Jun 22, 2016

Western Growers bolsters ag workforce with newly launched career pathways program to increase number of STEM college students pursuing jobs in agriculture

IRVINE, Calif. (June 22, 2016) – In an effort to fill the agricultural workforce gap, Western Growers has launched a Careers in Ag Program to encourage college students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers within the agricultural industry. 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently reported that while there are 60,000 agriculture job openings expected annually in the nation, there are only 35,000 graduates available to fill them. Answering USDA’s call to help bolster the agricultural workforce, Western Growers’ new Careers in Ag Program introduces students to the educational pathways—courses, majors, internships—that lead to STEM careers in agriculture and related industries.

“Western Growers is helping to lead the effort in building a highly-skilled agricultural workforce and shaping the next generation of ag pioneers,” said Tom Nassif, president & CEO of Western Growers. “With the global population reaching 9.3 billion within the next 30 years, the agriculture industry will be growing at an even faster pace. We are going to need a skilled, knowledgeable and innovative future workforce to help feed the world.”

The program looks to 1) encourage students to pursue and apply their STEM-related degrees toward a career in agriculture and 2) facilitate career placement between students and agricultural organizations. Western Growers partnered with Cal Poly Pomona and University of California, Davis, to bring forth the first cohort of students to participate in the program on June 13-15, 2016. A total of sixteen students from these two universities participated in the three-day tour of agriculture and technology operations in Salinas and other locations in Monterey County.

Students met with agricultural companies that offered STEM-related career opportunities, as well as connected one-on-one with successful agricultural professionals in the STEM field. Additionally, career advisors from UC Davis and Cal Poly Pomona were in attendance to make a direct connection between the curriculum and potential STEM careers in agriculture. Western Growers’ member companies—including Tanimura & Antle, California Giant Berry Farms, Ocean Mist Farms, Ramsay Highlander, GreenGate Fresh and Seminis, Inc.—and other agricultural pioneers—like SmartWash Solutions, USDA, UC Cooperative Extension and Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology—guided students in learning more about a variety of topics from soil science and innovation/technology to food safety and engineering/robotics.

To obtain images of the Careers in Ag Pilot Program or interview Western Growers or any of the students who participated in the first cohort, contact Stephanie Thara at sthara@wga.com or (949) 885-2256.

About Western Growers:
Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in Arizona, California and Colorado. Our members and their workers provide half the nation’s fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including nearly half of America’s fresh organic produce. For generations we have provided variety and healthy choices to consumers. Connect with and learn more about Western Growers on our Twitter and Facebook

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