Bridging the Gap: Minnesota’s AFNR Education and Building a Workforce Talent Pipeline for Employers

April 26, 2023

The agri-food industry has numerous opportunities for meaningful careers and good paying jobs. What’s more, from protecting our environment to feeding the world, people can advance in a career that reflects their passion and makes a difference.

For many agri-food businesses, however, they are struggling to find the talent of today, and ensuring a robust ag talent pipeline for the careers of tomorrow. In Minnesota, more than 800 instructors across our state are leading on agriculture, food and natural resources (AFNR) education, and businesses and HR professionals may not know all that is being done to foster talent in this industry. On the flip side, AFNR educators are finding gaps in communication with employers about all of the critical skills and tools our employers need from their workforce.

AgriGrowth and a coalition of partners in ag education and employment are working to bridge those gaps and foster our talent pipeline in Minnesota. We know there is work to do. With just over 1,700 AFNR graduates last year, and nearly 19,000 open job opportunities, connecting the needs of workforce and education is critical.

For employers, here is some key information on what AFNR educators are doing to train our state’s workforce.

AFNR Education in Minnesota

Middle and High School

Educators are preparing and supporting younger students in middle and high school to build awareness about AFNR careers and develop leadership for the food, fiber and natural resources systems. Every student engages with hands-on classroom instruction, career exploration, and leadership development.

Post-Secondary Education

Post-secondary AFNR education in Minnesota has a strong focus on career preparation to support students entering the workforce. Minnesota State colleges and universities, the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, and the University of Minnesota-Crookston have several AFNR academic departments and programs teaching AFNR majors.

Training AFNR Educators

AFNR teacher preparation and retention ensures that college students are prepared for licensure to teach AFNR education at three universities and through Minnesota State 2+2 programs. These universities include Southwest Minnesota and the University of Minnesota’s Crookston and Twin Cities campuses.

Minnesota also works to retain current teachers through mentorship programs and professional development. There are four mentorship programs in the state for AFNR educators at all levels, as well as a partnership with the Career and Technical Education.

(CTE) Teacher Induction Program, which supports CTE teachers with a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license or those teaching with an out-of-field permission.

Farm Business Management

Farm Business Management (FBM) programs are designed to provide education to farm owners and operators or persons interested in farming. The purpose of the program is to assist students in meeting their business and personal goals, helping them to be successful in a competitive agricultural environment. FBM is offered at seven colleges in the Minnesota State system by 62 instructors serving 2,800 students in one-on-one, student-led programming.

Connecting Talent to the Industry

Educators and AFNR programs are critical to growing our talent pipeline, but there is more work to be done. Educators are always looking for more ways to connect with private sector leaders to identify industry workforce needs and ensure programmatic facilities and equipment are industry aligned.

Increased access to programming and leadership experiences for students and educators is also critical to foster greater interest and awareness of all of the amazing opportunities that are out there in this field!  More opportunities for student work-based learning, internships, and mentorships can also introduce students to potential employers while helping fill talent needs for employers as well.

Interested in joining our ag talent work at AgriGrowth? Reach out to Tamara Nelsen at