May 8, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman
LEXINGTON, KY.

Agriculture students who graduated recently from the University of Kentucky likely walked across the stage and into a career or post graduate studies.

For the past five years, at least 95 percent of the College of Agriculture's graduates have moved into jobs or have continued their education within six months of graduation, said Ashley Moore, Career Development Specialist for the college.

Moore attributes the high rate of success to the practical experiences students receive along with academics.

There is a focus on internships, she said. It is something that Associate Dean for Instruction Joe Davis strongly believes in, and that's translated to faculty members who encourage internships, Moore said.

Internships allow students to get practical experience in a career area they are interested in before graduation and it allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom, Davis said. Additionally, it allows them to explore a career to see if it is something they want to do. For some students it solidifies their career choice, while for others it changes their career goals, he said.

Employers place value on internship experiences in their hiring process, said Davis and Moore.

"Companies are recognizing the value of having an intern, getting that person in as a sophomore or junior and having them prove themselves and also having them become interested in their company so that when that student graduates they will come to them, not to their competitor," Moore said.

Moore works with internships for College of Agriculture students who are getting academic credit and also refers them to the UK Office of Experiential Education. Many other students work in internships without getting academic credit.

"That's fine with us," she said. "What's most important is that they are getting the experience. Some students also work very closely with faculty members such as those in turf-grass science and landscape architecture. The faculty often hears about the internships and job opportunities first. So they work very closely with students on that."

The college is also attracting an outstanding quality of students, Davis said. If measured by ACT scores, incoming freshman into the College of Agriculture rank higher than the university as a whole, he said. The vast majority of students are highly motivated with a good work ethic and are serious about their studies.

The college's enrollment has increased at a rate of 2 to 4 percent annually for the past decade, Davis said. While the growth is welcome, it also pushes resources and he does not want that to impact the one-on-one individual mentoring and advising that the college is known for having.

Increased enrollment and the success of students attaining jobs can also be attributed to the vast amount of career opportunities associated with agriculture. Davis noted that one in five jobs is related to the food and fiber system in the United States and one in two worldwide.

Some areas that are seeing vast growth are food sciences and technology, natural resources and environment, and biotechnology and genetic engineering, he said.

"There are not enough graduates to fill some of the positions in food science," Moore said.

Overall, the job market this May doesn't look as good as last May but the jobs are out there, she said. Students are just having to be more proactive and more assertive. They are having to follow up and do several interviews before they find the job they want. Whereas, in the past they didn't have to do as much or start as early because there were so many companies searching for new graduates.

One thing that can help graduates find jobs is being open to relocation. There are so many more opportunities than if they limit their geographic area to Lexington or want to return to their hometowns, Moore said.

How the class of 2002 fares in the job market won't be known until survey forms are sent out this fall.

Contact: 

Joe Davis, (859) 257-3468; Ashley Moore, (859) 257-3356