By Mary Kuhlman
With a growing global population comes a need for highly skilled workers to support food, agriculture and natural-resources industries, Indiana researchers say.
According to an employment outlook led by Allan Goecker, assistant dean emeritus at Purdue University's College of Agriculture, close to 58,000 new positions will open in the areas of food and agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment over the next five years.
"We'll be seeing especially good opportunities in areas like food science and processing, certainly the plant sciences," he said. "The whole area of plant genetics and plant development is certainly on the stronger side of the outlook as we go forward."
Job opportunities also will grow for sustainable biomaterials specialists, water resource scientists and engineers, and veterinarians, . Goecker said, adding that the findings are especially important with a world population that's projected to increase from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2050.
Goecker noted that agriculture, natural resources and environmental disciplines have seen few ethnic minorities entering those fields. However, he said, he sees some positive trends on the horizon for women.
"Over half of the baccalaureate and higher graduates in food agriculture, renewable resources and environment are female - which, when you compare to some of the STEM disciplines, we don't see that proportion of women within the potential labor force," he said. "So, I think that's a positive for employers."
He explained that the employment forecast is intended to help students, educators and employers to become part of a global system.
"We're all a part of the bigger picture of trying to provide food security, renewable energy sources and certainly environmental quality as we go forward," he said, "whether we're dealing with producers, or whether we're dealing with supply-side industries, or certainly, value-added kinds of parts of the food chain."
The report projected that 46 percent of the new job opportunities each year will be in management and business, while 27 percent will be in the STEM areas - science, technology, engineering and math.