January 9, 2017

Building Career Skills Beyond the College Classroom


Successfully preparing for a career in agriculture is not The Leaders Conference includes a progressive series simply about meeting the academic requirements in of intense four-day workshops that focus on key success college. It’s also about making the most of one’s college experience through involvement and engagement, while also developing the soft skills needed to become a leader, collaborator and productive employee.

That’s the objective of AFA—Agriculture Future of America.

“AFA invests in young men and women that share three characteristics – they are talented, passionate and committed to a career in agriculture. We deliver the
programs, experiences and connections that stimulate leader development and fuel passion in order to equip tomorrow’s leaders to shape agricultural innovation for the betterment of the world,” said Mark Stewart, CEO of AFA.

AFA’s flagship program is its annual Leaders Conference, which features a four-track leadership development program. Students must apply to attend the conference. Some 700 students are selected from across the nation to participate annually.

Mark Stewart
AFA Leaders Conference areas—from professional skills development to time management, from problem solving to conflict resolution. Qualified students move through four tracks over the course of their college years.

“We’re not redundant with the students’ college education. Instead, we’re focused on personal development training that enhances their college experience and prepares them for success in the workplace and in life,” said Mark Stewart, CEO of AFA. “We want to challenge their perspectives and help them hone the skills they need to work collaboratively in a diverse and challenging environment.”

AFA also offers specific institutes focused on key areas such as policy, leadership, crop science, animal agriculture and food. Programs for young professionals who have already begun their careers are also available.

The Nebraska Corn Board provides scholarships for qualified Nebraska college students to participate in the AFA. “By supporting AFA, the Nebraska Corn Board
Emma Likens
is making it clear that they believe in the personal development training we offer students,” Stewart said.

Emma Likens, a UNL graduate from Swanton, Nebr., went through three of the four AFA Leaders Conference tracks and participated in many other activities. “If you are passionate about rural agriculture, entrepreneurship, and personal development—and you have a real drive to get connected with other students and career professionals from across the nation—AFA is definitely for you,” she said. “It gives you a larger, more diverse perspective than you’ll get on campus. I learned about everything from strawberry farming to pecans from the connection I made with other AFA students—things I would have never thought of as ‘farming’ if I hadn’t had the chance to network with students from those backgrounds.”

For more information on AFA, visit: www.agfuture.org.

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