Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) teams up with Illinois Central College and area agribusinesses to provide insights into career opportunities in ag
BLOOMINGTON, ILL., Jan. 31, 2024 – The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) announces the first cohort of mentees from Illinois Central College (ICC) in East Peoria, Ill., for the Growing Careers in Ag mentorship experience launching for the spring 2024 semester. Anna Alexander, freshman, agribusiness major; James Hodskins, sophomore, agribusiness major; Andrea Knack, freshman, plant biotechnology major; and Talena Sprecher, freshman, business administration major, have been accepted into the program.
“ISA is proud to coordinate and sponsor the first year of the Growing Careers in Ag mentorship experience for students at Illinois Central College. We see great value in promoting careers in agriculture to young adults in the hopes of engaging talented individuals in ag and retaining them in Illinois,” said Jennifer Jones, CCA, research agronomist with ISA.
Blake Lehman, ICC assistant professor of agricultural and industrial technologies, agreed. “The local and statewide hiring demand continues to grow in the field of agriculture, but we find that the average student does not know about the vast career opportunities in the field. ICC is excited to join in a career-focused mentorship program that should provide many opportunities to student participants.”
Growing Careers in Ag is designed to provide students with and without a farming background an opportunity to learn about and make connections in the Illinois ag industry. Two of the four mentees did not grow up on farms but are from rural areas and developed an interest in agriculture. Each mentee shared in their application that they hope to learn more about the diverse opportunities within the industry to help reinforce or refine their career goals.
“At ICC, one of our mottos is ‘Agriculture is no longer just cows, plows, and sows.’ Allowing students to see the daily activities, working environment, and skills needed to be successful in multiple local agriculture careers could offer promising directional insights. The mentorship program will seamlessly fit our goal of producing a talented employee pool to make our local agricultural economy and industry sustainable and vibrant,” Lehman expanded.
Mentees will participate in five mentor experience days throughout the semester where they will gain insights into the company and the industry sector they serve, get a peek at what a typical day might look like, and experience a more hands-on view of the mentor’s key function. Mentors and the industry sectors they serve include:
- Research: Steve Cermak, research leader for the Bio-Oils Research Unit, National Agricultural Research Center, Peoria.
- Sales: David Ringger, training innovation manger, Beck’s Hybrids, Gridley.
- Government Agency: Dan Sahm, soil conservation technician, Peoria County Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Edwards.
- Ag Lender: Dana Wiegand, financial officer, Compeer Financial, Morton.
- Farm/Ag Tourism: Marilyn Tanner & Family, Tanners Orchard, Speer.
“We thank the mentors who have volunteered their time to showcase just a few of the many opportunities,” Jones said. “In future years of the mentorship experience, we hope to engage more community colleges and organizations around the state.”
About the Illinois Soybean Association
The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff and membership programs represent more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and government relations efforts, while the membership program, Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) and the Illinois Soybean Growers PAC actively advocates for positive and impactful legislation for farmers at local, state and national levels. ISA upholds the interests of Illinois soybean farmers through promotion, advocacy, research and education with the vision of becoming a trusted partner of Illinois soybean farmers to ensure their profitability now and for future generations.