Monday, March 12, 2012

Just in

Spring Break Tour Focuses on Agricultural Job Opportunities Across Idaho

MOSCOW-Like so many other students, on Monday, March 12, a group of University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students will head south for spring break.

With destinations that include a plant that produces malt - an essential ingredient in beer - and a winery, the students’ objective for the 1,200-plus mile itinerary might resemble an epic college road trip.

But their real goal is to find future job and internship opportunities in communities large and small across Idaho.

Their destinations include Salmon, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, Boise, and points in between. There, they’ll meet with a range of agricultural business operators from ranchers to winemakers to executives at General Mills and the J.R. Simplot Co.

The 17 University of Idaho students and one from Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston will earn two academic credits for participating in the “Spring into Idaho Careers Tour”. They’ll conduct research on the employers and communities they’ll be visiting and will post observations to a website as they tour the state.
The vans will depart from Moscow at 8 a.m. March 12 and return Friday evening March 16.

“These students are mostly interested in looking for job opportunities and seeing what’s out there,” said Katie Strittmatter, the college’s student retention coordinator. For many, the van-based trip will be their first visits to the upper Salmon River country and southeastern Idaho.

Strittmatter thought up and organized the tour as a way to connect students with job opportunities in communities large and small across the state.

The tour’s first stop will be the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ newest research facilities, the Nancy M. Cummings Research, Extension and Education Center near Salmon. Dedicated in 2005 after it was gifted by the Auen Foundation of Palm Desert, Calif., the 1,200 acre center is a working-scale cattle ranch with more than 400 cattle.

The students will tour the center, the focus of beef research coordinated with Idaho’s $1.1 billion cattle industry, then dine with cattle producers and others in Salmon before heading for Idaho Falls.

Tuesday in Idaho Falls will begin with visits to Potandon, a potato and onion packing operation, an Anheuser-Busch malting plant and General Mills. The students will head next for American Falls-based Driscoll Potatoes’ fresh pack operations.

Back on the road again, the students will head for dinner in Twin Falls with Clear Springs Foods executives. Clear Springs is a major force in Idaho’s nationally acclaimed trout industry.

The job market is strong for students studying a range of agricultural disciplines, said Cally Parrott, a Clear Springs Foods vice president. She visited the Moscow campus earlier this year for a career fair. Her son Stephen, an agribusiness major, served as the University of Idaho student body president in 2010-11.

Parrott’s visit represented the company’s desire to find students and graduates interested in joining it.
“We have an aging workforce, the average age of our management group is 52, so we want to try to develop some people who can take the company forward,” Parrott said.

“We’re an Idaho based company, and if we can hire people who grew up in Idaho to come to work for us, they tend to stay and do well in our culture,” Parrott said.

“We are thinking about expanding so we’re going to be hiring some more people,” she said.

Wednesday will begin with a tour of Si Ellen Dairy in Jerome, lunch with Agri Beef Co. executives in Boise and a visit to its nearby facilities, then tours of Ste. Chapelle Winery and Idaho’s Capitol. Thursday will include visits to the Sorrento Cheese factory in Nampa, the J.R. Simplot Co. in Caldwell and a mint production facility.

Friday will bring visits to the Performix Nutrition Systems feed mill, M&M Feedlot and lunch with members of the Treasure Valley Agricultural Coalition before the students head north and back to the University of Idaho campus.

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