Agribusiness is booming in Illinois.
The state has the highest percentage of agricultural workers in the country and its number of farmers has grown since 2012.
The state is also the nation’s top farm-based employer, with more than 22,000 farms and 1,000 of those in Illinois, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But with a booming job market and rising food prices, the number of agricultural jobs in Illinois is now the third highest in the nation.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s agroecology program has been a magnet for new students who want to work on the farm, but it’s also a place where the program’s alumni have seen their career paths take a turn for the worse.
For the past three years, the agro-engineering program has had the largest drop in its faculty, according the university.
“The drop in faculty members has really been due to the attrition,” said Michael Raskopf, the program director.
“It’s been a really challenging time for the students and we’ve had to do a lot of work with our alumni to get the students back on track.
It’s been challenging because we’ve really been trying to do everything we can to bring back the students.”
According to the program, about 50 percent of the graduates are now working in agroeconomics and management, which is an industry in which they specialize.
But that number is down from 40 percent in 2012.
Raskopfer said it’s important to focus on the students that are still in the program and not the graduates who leave because they’re graduating and they need to get some degree in agronomy or management.
“We’re trying to get them into the jobs and not just go into the positions,” he said.
Rakopf says his program is making changes to its curriculum to give the graduates the skills they need.
“Our main goal is to teach them to become agronomists,” he added.
“So they can take on jobs that we’ve been doing with the graduates, but we’re trying not to give them all of the agronomic knowledge that we’re offering in agriculture.
We’re trying instead to provide them with a little bit of agronomics and management.”
The program also is looking at other areas of the program.
The agricultural business degree is now offered to students in a separate program, which allows them to work in a variety of industries, including agricultural consulting and agriculture technology, Raskobf said.
He said the students in the agricultural business program are now able to earn a bachelor’s degree with a focus on agronome and management.
But they still need to be in the school for a minimum of two years before they can earn a second bachelor’s.
He also said he’s been working to make the agricultural program more diverse and offer more internship opportunities to help increase diversity in the student body.
The new program also will help the program continue to recruit students, he said, and also provide a pathway to the graduate program.