Date of Graduation

5-2022

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

K. Jill Rucker

Committee Member

Casandra Cox

Second Committee Member

Jefferson D. Miller

Keywords

Agricultural Education, Career Success, Curriculum Development, Curriculum Recommendations, Employability Skills, Preparedness Needs, Workforce Development

Abstract

This research examined agricultural graduate preparedness needs through the lens of agricultural industry professionals. In the rapidly changing industry environment, continual review of agricultural curriculum needs provides relevant curriculum recommendations for academic programs. This study came at a time when agricultural curriculum was in need of review. Methodology for this study involved a qualitative mixed methods approach employing survey and interview responses. A total of 121 industry professionals, identified through the University of Arkansas Bumpers College Career Development Center, were contacted with the survey link. A total of eighteen individuals completed the surveys, and of those eighteen survey respondents, eight individuals participated in one-on-one interviews as a follow up to the surveys. Over 50% of the industry professionals were graduates of agricultural programs, and the respondents represented 12 academic disciplines. The Program Systems Model served and the Human Capital Theory created the framework for this research. The agricultural graduates served as the input and output of the program system. The industry professionals provided their perspective, influencing the academic programs as a means of preparing graduates to enter the industry environment, and the educators, as the individuals who can implement curriculum recommendations, served as the target audience for this study. The research objectives for this study included determining changes in the agricultural industry impacting incoming agricultural employees, determining challenges incoming agricultural employees will face, cross comparing APLU employability needs with industry perspectives, and determining agricultural curriculum recommendations in terms of employability needs. Data was coded into themes based on the research objectives, and then emergent coding took place to identify themes within industry professionals’ excerpts. Although some variation occurred between survey responses and the one-on-one interviews, for the most part responses remained consistent across both data instruments, and the interviews further validated the survey responses. In summary, communications and leadership were at the core of curriculum recommendations, and other concern areas such as career perseverance, ambiguity, pace and change, and conflict management can be mitigated through those two-curriculum focuses. Building culture through cross-functional opportunities and building real world applications through industry interactions create ways to successfully teach prepare individuals for diverse workforce development.

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