Knowledge and Perceptions of Secondary Students Toward Agricultural Careers and Technologies Upon Completion of an Educational Program



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There are nearly 60,000 annual job opportunities expected for agricultural graduates between 2020 and 2025. However, as the pool of agricultural graduates becomes more urbanized, these positions are expected to become harder to fill. While previous research heavily indicates secondary student perceptions of agricultural careers and the factors behind career choices, there is little research in career education programs for the agricultural industry. The Social Learning Theory of Career Decision Making and Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory were used as theoretical frameworks in designing this study. Selected students participated in an immersive career education experience hosted at West Texas A&M University over three days prior to data collection. The target population for this study consisted of secondary students enrolled in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) courses at high schools in the Texas Panhandle. Targeted students should be entering grades 11 or 12 and come from a non-traditional agricultural background. Due to a lack of applicants in a local area, the population was extended to include secondary students enrolled in AFNR programs in Texas. Eleven participants applied and were accepted to the program, encompassing students from traditional and non-traditional agricultural backgrounds. Data for this mixed-method study was collected via a retrospective pre-post survey questionnaire and phenomenological focus group interviews following the completion of an immersive career education program. The survey included five-point Likert-type scale questions assessing participant knowledge prior to and following program completion. Focus group questions assessed participant knowledge based on previous experiences in agriculture and with agricultural career areas. The researcher found that participant knowledge of agricultural career opportunities was low prior to the program, particularly in animal sciences, plant, soil, and environmental sciences, and knowledge of agricultural technologies. Through quantitative and qualitative data collection, secondary student participation in an immersive career education program was found to improve knowledge in all areas assessed. Participants were found to possess varying levels of knowledge about agricultural career areas, and were most confident in areas they held previous experience. Recommendations were made for additional research on this topic with larger samples and in varying geographical areas to further the opportunity for generalization.



Agriculture, General, Education, Agricultural


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