Career Paths, Job Satisfaction, and Employability Skills of Agricultural Education Graduates
Garton, Bryan L., Robinson, J. Shane, NACTA Journal
The career paths pursued by agricultural education graduates from the University of Missouri were explored. In addition, graduates' job satisfaction, employability skills required for their careers, and the contribution of the degree program's curriculum in developing the skills were assessed. Graduates pursued a variety of careers, with approximately twothirds employed as secondary agriculture teachers, sales representatives, or in managerial positions. Graduates teaching secondary agriculture and graduates employed in industry were equally satisfied with their chosen career. For graduates changing employment, a change in career goals or ambitions had the greatest influence on their decision, while being unprepared for the position was not a factor. Graduates rated "getting along with people," "planning and completing projects," and "analyzing information to make decisions" as the employability skills with the greatest need. When factoring in the contribution of the program's curriculum, "analyzing information to make decisions" rose to the top as a need for improvement.
There is a need for higher education to prepare graduates for the demands of industry (Martin et al., 2000). However, due to a fast-paced, ever-changing world, researchers have noted the challenges higher education has in preparing graduates for the skills industry requires (Candy and Crebert, 1991; Martin et al., 2000). With these challenges in mind, higher education must continually assess and modify the curriculum to meet the needs of students (Furhmann and Grasha, 1983) and prepare them for the workforce (Evers et al., 1998; Martin et al., 2000; McLaughlin, 1995). To make the necessary adjustments, educators should recognize which employability skills are most needed by graduates because, given the appropriate skills, they will likely possess a positive attitude toward performing the tasks of the job. Gilmer and Deci (1977) concluded that "workers' attitudes toward their jobs reflect the extent to which they are satisfied with their jobs and their work lives" (p. 228).
In addition to teaching agriculture in public schools, graduates of university agricultural education programs enter professions outside of schoolbased teaching. Cartmell and Garton (2000) revealed that slightly more than one-third of agricultural education graduates entered professions outside of school-based teaching. Because of the diversity of career interests and the variety of opportunities agricultural education graduates have available, faculty often find it challenging to prepare students for the array of skills required for success in their respective employment.
While agricultural education faculty pride themselves in preparing quality teachers for public schools, Bender (1977) warned against programs becoming too narrowly focused. Barrick (1993) suggested that agricultural education programs were competent in preparing students in human resource development and management, leadership, communication, and social science research. Newcomb (1993) stressed that agricultural education programs needed to focus on identifying and addressing the needs of students not being met. To address the needs of students, faculty and departments of agricultural education have a responsibility to not only recognize student diversity in the program, but to build a relationship with them as well. In an era when agricultural education is concerned with informing people about agriculture, students must be literate in the subject matter, have the skills to effectively communicate, and be successful in finding employment after graduation.
Scanlon et al. (1996) stated that "if agricultural education programs are to survive, they must be dynamic and able to adjust to new situations and environments that help to improve the on-the-job effectiveness of future graduates" (p. 1). Therefore, continual adjustments need to be made to the curriculum to meet the needs of students in an everchanging workforce. …