When competing for new hires, what can precision farming dealers do to make themselves attractive destinations for graduates and what tactics should they avoid?
"The highest degree of success is to recruit them young, develop a rapport with them, and support their education. That means identifying a local person with the work ethic and knowledge of the local area, and sending them to a community college that offers precision agriculture courses.
"Many of the students attending Kirkwood are in this situation; knowing a potential employer is waiting for them provides extra incentive and focused coursework. Most students want to go back to their home areas for employment.
"If the dealer has not identified a local person or if the local community college does not have a precision farming program, they can still identify students to support. I regularly have dealers and potential employers speak to my classes, after which we schedule time for them to meet with individual students. This provides more focused 'face time' with individual students than a job fair. Once the employer has identified a specific student, offer them job shadowing, training and internship opportunities.
"Competitive salaries are always attractive, but providing support to get started is also important. New graduates may be more confident in their technical skills than starting a real job for the first time. Things as simple as helping them navigate employment contracts or housing and getting situated in the community are also important if they are in a new area.
"The most common mistake I see employers make is not communicating with the graduates. I get a lot of questions from graduates who think they have a job, but can't get in touch with the employer for confirmation. I have also seen students take an alternate job when they don't get a clear answer. Dealers need to remember that many of these graduates have never had a fulltime job before and get very nervous as graduation approaches. Clarify the job offer and then have an administrative assistant keep in regular contact."
- Terry Brase,
Kirkwood Community College,
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
"The overarching challenge is the wide range of opportunities and skills required to be considered a PA specialist. This ranges from the installing the equipment to being the data management specialist. No matter what your level of expertise, it seems that the expectation from the customer is that a precision farming specialist can do it all.
"In Wisconsin, the adoption of precision farming technology is not at the same level as the lower tier and Plain's states. The geography, topography and comparatively smaller farm and field sizes have made it seemingly difficult for the producers to change their paradigm.
"I believe that dealers can focus on the hardware and application aspects of precision farming for their specialists when they consider background and training. The data management aspect is the ultimate payoff for the technology, yet without the baseline, it will not be understood. Dealers can work with consultants and cooperatives to demonstrate the capabilities and management tools that this technology offers."
- Mike Cattelino,
Fox Valley Technical College,