Careers in Ag

Careers in Agriculture and Food in Pennsylvania

In light of demographic and technology trends that will impact the US workforce in the next 10-20 years, particularly the Baby Boom workforce changing its relationship to work and the constant changes in new technology, the human capital pipeline in all industries will be severely impacted.

Companies will not only run out of skilled people to operate technology but there will be more general labor shortages of workers just to get basic tasks done. Skills and labor shortages become economic development issues for local areas because they impact productivity and, in many cases, can lead companies to move production facilities to other areas around the country that can supply a pipeline of skilled workers.

For Pennsylvania, agriculture and food-related industries are the backbone of the statewide economy.

To remain competitive in the global marketplace, the agriculture and food industries in PA must resolve the problem of an aging workforce…and do it soon. The Secretary of Agriculture has proposed an initiative to identify a demand-driven career pathway, to marshal substantial resources that already exist in a variety of systems, to identify gaps in education and training, to focus on work-based learning as methods to fill those gaps, and to account for the needs of young people and adults as a way of finding a solution to the shortage of talent in the near and long-term.

Much of this can be accomplished using existing concepts and processes. However, the current information will need to be made more specific for the agriculture and food industries through a study of the unique career pathways and the requirements of employers in these targeted industries. There are also considerable resources for education and training that can address the needs that are identified but they will need to be supplemented by new content and processes that account for the changing nature of these key industries.

As a way of starting this process, the PA Department of Agriculture has hired Scott J. Sheely, an experienced workforce development leader, as a Special Assistant to function as the project manager for a wide-ranging study of the human capital needs of the agriculture and food industries, for the identification and validation of the career pathways that exist in the industries, for a survey of the resources and gaps that exist in the current system, and for a plan to implement a re-invented system for knowledge and skill development. Contact Scott Sheely at for more information.

You can see general information on the size and nature of the PA workforce in the Agriculture and Food Industry by clicking here.

Also, the PA Department of Agriculture has identified more than two dozen occupations that will be the in-demand jobs for the next ten years. Click here to see statistics on those jobs and here to see a sampling of the descriptions of those jobs.