Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Skills, Knowledge and Abilities Employers Seek in New Professionals Entering Careers in the Fed Beef Industry

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Skills, Knowledge and Abilities Employers Seek in New Professionals Entering Careers in the Fed Beef Industry

Article excerpt


Plains Nutrition Council members that make hiring decisions (N=129 surveyed; 47 responded) were surveyed to determine skills, knowledge and abilities employers seek in new professionals entering the fed beef industry and to identify how well prepared new professionals were in these areas. For this study, a "new professional" was defined as a person who had completed or was working toward a masters or doctorate degree and was entering an initial career in the cattle feeding business. Of 41 individual skills employers assessed for new employee preparation, the ability to speak a second language was the only item new professionals were believed to be not prepared. Industry employers who participated in this study valued the importance of integrity, honesty and dependability over all other skills. Other skills employers valued included new employees understanding and following directions, listening, initiative and problem solving. General work experience and career-related employment were found as the most valuable experiential learning opportunities new professionals could acquire. Recommendations were made for all stakeholders to promote character education along with leadership and communication skills through both formal and non-formal means. These opportunities could come in the form of course offerings, conference activities, added responsibilities or extracurricular type activities.


Pool and Sewell (2007) defined employability as "a set of skills, knowledge, understanding and personal attributes that make a person more likely to choose and secure occupations in which they can be satisfied and successful" (p. 280). Gurcharan et al., (2008) found employability skills are not job specific, but are applicable across all domains as well as all levels of employment. Even though many college graduates possess excellent academic qualification, a major concern from employers is many graduates do not have the right combination of skills and personal attributes (Daud et al., 2011).

In the rapidly changing business world of the 21st century, partnerships between industry and the educational institutions that produce their future employees are vitally important. Nowhere is this more critical than agriculture. To keep the competitive edge American agriculture has in the world requires a skilled labor force. According to Graham (2001), schools are calling for reform to better prepare their students in higher order thinking skills and reasoning skills. Because of immense increase in technology and the rapidly changing agricultural industry, a need has developed to determine what skills the new, entry-level employee needs in order to succeed. Andelt et al. (1997) posited the more is known about the competencies required for an industry the more employable graduates there will be in the marketplace.

The Plains Nutrition Council (PNC) is comprised of professionals from private consulting, cattle feeding companies, allied industries (feed, nutrition and animal health) and research and extension institutions. Its members account for 85 to 90% of the United States feed yard capacity. This group is vital to the proper nutrition, growth and overall well-being of beef cattle fed in our nation's cattle feeding yards. However, PNC members also play a role in helping educational institutions prepare masters and doctoral students to become successful employees within this fed beef industry. For all stakeholders to best serve and prepare these students for career success several questions need to be addressed. How prepared for a professional career are students entering the fed beef industry? What employability skills are deemed most important to industry employers? What does the future hold in within the profession?

Theoretical Framework

Human Capital Theory served as the theoretical framework for this study. According to Oded and Moav (2002), investing in knowledge, skills and health of workers not only benefits them as a person, it benefits the employer and potential productivity of the organization. …

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