Placement was strong and salaries up for May 1997 graduates, according to an annual placement survey.
Purdue Agriculture Assistant Dean Allan Goecker surveyed 334 out of 336 graduates, asking for information on employment and salaries. As of last fall, 75 percent were employed, 16 percent were headed for graduate schools, medical schools and other forms of continuing education, 2 percent were not seeking employment, and 7 percent still were looking.
"For the most part, many Purdue Agriculture departments have 'sold out' signs posted," Goecker says.
Average salary for all programs of study in the agriculture school went from $24,803 in 1996 to $27,621 in 1997. The average in agricultural and food process engineering increased to $38,378, up $971; food science was up $1,780 to $31,947; and natural resource jobs were up $2,583 to $24,274. Agribusiness salaries dropped from a four-year high of $27,015 to $26,065, Goecker said.
Increased competition for graduates and a positive outlook for the agribusiness sector are reflected in the number of companies recruiting graduates. Purdue Agriculture annually attracts recruiters from firms such as Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, Kimball International, Swift and Co., and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While many companies look for traditional agriculture graduates, food processors, marketers, wood product makers and financial service companies also are represented.
Competition for the right graduate is intense, says Greg Manjak, regional sales manager for Crow's Hybrid Corn Co. in Indiana, who dropped placement services in favor of doing his own scouting for new hires. "I just wasn't getting the people I need," says Manjak, who interviews at one other college. He says he's considering starting an internship program to identify and test potential employees.
Mike Thurow, president of Spectrum Technologies Inc., an Illinois manufacturer and marketer of analytical equipment, says he welcomes the chance to evaluate students for personality and poise -- characteristics you can't get from a resume.
Identifying the right people has become critical for businesses as profit margins are going down, expenses are going up, and the cost of hiring the wrong candidate has gotten too high, says Cenex Land O Lakes staffing coordinator Daniel Jensema of Milwaukee, Wis., who looks to fill positions that require a mix of technical, business and personal skills.
"We can provide the additional technical training," he says. "They need the business sense, because everything has to tie back to 'Will it save money?' We're also looking for the person who can work with others, who knows how to communicate." Jensema says.
Goecker says several programs at Purdue added business components to their scientific fields of study starting about 10 years ago. With the help of Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics, those majors include animal agribusiness, horticultural production and marketing and agronomic business.
"We also stress international experiences, communications and humanities," Goecker says. "We want to make sure our students have the best shot possible when they start that career for which they've been working so hard."
CONTACTS: Goecker, (765) 494-8473; Manjak, Crow's Hybrid Corn Co., (815) 875-1063; Thurow, Spectrum Technologies Inc., (815) 436-4440; Jensema, Cenex Land O Lakes, (800) 286-0707