This Nebraska program promotes STEM careers with an agricultural outlook: BTN LiveBIG

Craig Chandler/UNL Communications

This Nebraska program promotes STEM careers with an agricultural outlook: BTN LiveBIG

What do you think of when you think of STEM-related careers?

Visions of jobs in the cutting edge fields of tech and engineering-focused design probably come to mind, or maybe, high-level academic research. But, what about agriculture?

More than likely, for most people, that’s not the first – or even the fifth – sector that jumps into their head when they think of jobs in STEM.

But, according to a report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it should be, and they’re taking an active role in making sure that it will be in the future.

Over the next decade, a 35 percent deficit of graduates with relevant education and experience to fill STEM-related jobs in food, agriculture and natural resources is anticipated. To meet the demand, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has invested in programs to increase the number of underrepresented students enrolled in STEM-related agricultural majors and careers. The institute is funding the three-year, $94,387 Cultivate ACCESS project at Nebraska.

“We believe that through intentional mentoring, personal development and enhanced career awareness, youth will envision themselves working in specific STEM-related careers in agriculture and will more likely pursue STEM-related majors in post-secondary educational institutions,” said Jenny Keshwani, Cultivating ACCESS (Agriculture Career Communities to Empower Students in STEM) project director.

With changing demographics across the nation, Keshwani and her colleagues are hoping to entice a younger and more diverse group towards careers in agriculture and its adjacent fields in order to fill a widening gap. One of the key goals of the program is to illuminate to female students and students of color the value and impact that careers in agriculture can have for a growing populations

Utilizing online mentoring with industry professionals and STEM educators, networking and long term goal setting, Cultivating ACCESS student scholars will work towards identify an educational track to help them launch their career.

The project directly benefits from a number of cross-campus collaborations with entities such as the Rural Futures Institute, the Nebraska Extension and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

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