There are several issues going on today that involve higher education and my field of study. One of the biggest ones is the issue with job availability as you continue on with your education. One example of this nutrition. I cannot vouch for the other species, but for swine, there are very few industry positions available for those who pursue a Masters degree in swine nutrition or even Ph.D.s. Most of the large companies only have a few nutritionists that focus just on that.
Going off of that, getting a Masters degree in any part of the agriculture industry may open a lot of doors. But it may also close a lot as well. And most of the jobs that require a Masters are filled by very competent people who are not planning on leaving any time soon. And the same can be said for Ph.D.s as well. It may even be worse. If you are pursing a Ph.D. then the best opportunity for you is to go into academia. This is mainly because you are considered overqualified for most of the jobs that are available. Also, it is extremely likely that you lack industry experience that companies want.
This brings me to my next point. Another gap between higher education and the agriculture industry is the fact that a lot of people don’t know what they are going to do with their degrees. There are issues with people not learning what they need to know for their field of study, even in undergraduate programs. Some knowledge just comes from experiences, but some programs aren’t building a good foundation for students to build upon. And even with post graduate degrees there are students that are conducting research, putting in countless hours and lots of energy, but they have no clear idea what they are going to do when they graduate.
I think there are a couple thing that we can do to improve these issues. One of the biggest is to properly encourage students. I think that it is part of a professor’s job to properly guide students through the transition from college to industry. I had this experience. When I first started talking to one of my professors at my undergrad about grad school, I told him I was interested in swine nutrition. He was very straightforward with me when he explained that I would have a really hard time finding a job in that field after graduation and that he did not want to see me waste me time on that. I think we need more of this within higher education.
I also think that companies can start with university researchers more. If we can start working together, we can essentially kill two bird with one stone. Companies can have the research that they need conducted, students will have opportunities to do research that will make an impact, and it provides a networking opportunity for everyone involved. I know that there is a lot of university/company collaboration happening already, but I think we may need to step back and make sure that what students are learning is actually applicable in the real world.