Graduates Value Connection – Internships Help

The excitement on the UW-Rivers Falls campus is palpable as seniors wrap up their last semester and prepare to accept their diplomas on May 4.

The news from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is that the job market for these grads is looking good. So good, that students have to weigh the benefits of each job offer carefully before deciding.

College Dean Michael Orth says graduation rates are steady, and enrollment numbers are heading back up post-COVID. He says it’s been fairly easy for students to land a job post-graduation, in part due to the vast number of internships that help a student get familiar with a career opportunity.

“Here in the ag science building, we have an internship wall where we post internships. It’s completely full. We have more internships than we have students,” Orth says. “Basically, when they’re doing an internship, it’s an on-site job interview. If you use that as a barometer, our students have zero issues finding jobs in the ag area.”

Based on what he’s heard from the industry and students, Orth says animal and plant sciences and agricultural engineering and technology are robust industries to be in right now.

“It is a really good market,” he says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s over 90 percent,” he says of students that have a job lined up before graduation.

What The Graduates Are Saying

Mid-West Farm Report also catches up with three graduating seniors about their job-hunting experience and what led them to choose their careers after graduation. Not one of them mentioned the word “salary” or “pay.” Instead, they focused on how they connected with their future coworkers, their shared values, and how the job can help them transition from student to employee. 

In a few weeks, Ben Steffes will hold his degree in animal science. He’s looking forward to working with ABS as a reproductive technician serving farms in Clark County. He was an intern with ABS Global as a student. When they offered him a job, it was a no-brainer to accept.

“I knew quite a few people from doing my internship with riding along with many techs and salespeople and so it just felt like a great fit,” he says. “You want to enjoy who you work with and be around and get along with them, so that was a really big part.”

Steffes says the internship experience was common among his peers, and helped them get a feel for the job before accepting an offer. He added that his job offer included a company truck, which he thought was helpful as he transitioned from college.

“Coming out of a college when you’re trying to pay off all your debt, it really helps to have a company truck,” he says. “It’s one less thing that I have to worry about.”

Jaiden Miller will take her agricultural business degree to Syngtena following graduation. She’ll be a research associate helping with planting, harvesting, and pollinating plants in research trials. She says she applied for a lot of jobs through online career services, like LinkedIn and Indeed. But in the end, Jaiden decided to go with Syngenta, a company that she interned with. Similar to Ben, she points to the people as the reason why.

“I feel like for everybody, they want to be comfortable and enjoy their job, and a big aspect of that is having good coworkers and being able to discuss things with your boss… where they can go and ask questions,” she says. “

After earning a degree in agricultural communications, Kendra Jentz is taking a position with Kwik Trip as their campus tour coordinator. She says the personal connection is important for her graduation class because they didn’t get it at the end of their high school careers or the beginning of college due to pandemic restrictions. 

“I think (COVID) put into perspective for us what’s most important in life — those connections and those people and the values that come with it is what we hold dear because it’s something that we had taken away from us,” Jentz explains. “We always want to make sure that that’s something that’s instilled in where we’re working.”