The Influence of 4-H and FFA on Community College Transfer Students’ Career Choices in Agriculture
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My name is Gabby Whorley and I recently defended my thesis titled “Career Decision Making among Community College Transfer Students in the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: A Qualitative Research Study”. The purpose of the study was to understand how transfer students in a College of Agriculture come to their decision to pursue an agricultural career. This understanding may contribute to engaging highly qualified students who are aware of their career aspirations and who are prepared to enter the highly technological agriculture workforce.
The major question addressed by this study was: “How do community college students who transfer into a four-year university choose to pursue agriculture as a career choice?”
For this study, I interviewed ten students who transferred from a community college to NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Through these interviews, I was able to learn about what influenced these students to pursue a degree and a career in agriculture. One of the major influences was their participation in 4-H or FFA.
Six of the ten participants were involved in either 4-H, FFA, or both. Each of these students discussed the impact these organizations had in their pursuit of agriculture. Participants felt these organizations gave them an early look into the many different career options within agriculture and allowed them to explore the parts of agriculture they were most passionate about. One participant explained how her experience with 4-H and her local extension office played a large role in her career decisions.
“Just doing local volunteering with the Ag Extension offices and 4-H or just anything related to agriculture within my community has really just shown me all the routes that are possible through agriculture like there’s not just one thing” (Participant 5).
Of the four students who did not participate in 4-H or FFA, three stated that they wished they would have because since attending NC State University, they realize how much experience these organizations gave their peers. This appeared to be an issue of the participants’ lack of access rather than an issue of their lack of interest as indicated by this representative comment: “I wish we had like a 4-H club or FFA. But we did not have FFA or anything like that” (Participant one).
As someone who grew up in a county without a 4-H agent or did not have FFA offered at my school, I echo the sentiments of participant one. I personally saw how my peers who participated in 4-H and/or FFA came into college with a basic knowledge of agriculture that I lacked. They all had so many hands-on experiences with animals and agriculture that really set them up to succeed. From this study and my own experience, I now see how important agriculture education is.
The findings of this study show how 4-H and FFA gave these students opportunities to explore careers in agriculture and the large role they played in influencing students to pursue agricultural careers. This is why one of my major recommendations from my study was for all students to have access to agriculture education through 4-H and FFA so that we can hopefully increase the number of students pursuing careers in agriculture to be a resource for the many agriculture jobs in the US.