Hereford Youth Grow Professionally through Bridging the Gap

July 27, 2021

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap program serves as a catalyst for building professional skills for junior exhibitors from communication to critical thinking.

By: Faye Smith, 2021 JNHE Ambassador

With the growing demand of jobs in the agricultural field, the requirement of highly qualified individuals applying for jobs has risen. This led the National Junior Hereford Association (NJHA) to host Bridging the Gap, a program for youth to connect with college and career representatives to network at the Junior National Hereford Expo (JNHE). In addition to the college and career fair, juniors also have the opportunity to compete in the future professionals contest at the JNHE.

The future professionals contest gives contestants the opportunity to send in a resume with a choice between three industry relevant job applications for the senior division, and those in the intermediate division submit a scholarship application. Exhibitors are then scored based on their resume, and the top five are asked to interview with a committee at the JNHE.

For senior contestant, Abby Spindle, N.M., the future professionals contest gave her the ability to gain feedback on her interview skills and resume to improve her competence in the job application process.

“I wanted to find a way to better my resume and kind of hit a top-notch level of looking for jobs and making sure that I’m somebody they’d look at and not one where they would throw my resume to the side because I didn’t stand out,” Spindle said.

In addition to gaining feedback from the panel of judges, contestants and other exhibitors are encouraged to speak to industry professionals that have come as a company representative at the JNHE. This gives JNHE exhibitors the chance to network and gain knowledge on how they can better themselves as a future candidate in the job market.

Boviteq Beef Sales Specialist, Kane Aegerter, enjoys seeing juniors participate in the future professionals contest and Bridging the Gap, because juniors will separate themselves later on in the application process from the experience.

“It pushes you out of your comfort zone. When you get out of your comfort zone, that’s when you learn the most,” Aegerter said. “It brightens up those kids, it sharpens those tools and experiences you have that allow you to separate yourself from other people that may be applying for the same job.”

From personal experiences, Jenna Goetzmann, Customer Sales Representative for Merck Animal Health, was able to network with companies at different events like the JNHE. She encourages juniors to realize how important these connections made at the JNHE can lead to a job or career opportunity.

“Some of the people I connected with at state fairs were some people I ended up having job offers with, or I met professors I later had at Kansas State,” Goetzmann said. “It’s a small industry, and you never know who you will run into, and what opportunities lie ahead of you in terms of future employment.”

Even though the older contestants and juniors are able to grow their professionalism with industry professionals, representatives from Kansas State University, and Oklahoma State University were able to attend the JNHE to visit with exhibitors to discuss their college path, and speak on the importance of gaining professional skills before attending college.

Current Kansas State University College of Agriculture Associate Dean, and past National Junior Polled Hereford Council Chairman, Dan Moser, Ph.D., knows the importance of attending contests and programs like the JNHE because of the integral role in helping to build leaders in the agriculture and beef industry.

“This industry is going to continue to grow and evolve and change. Students having speaking, problem-solving, critical thinking, and advocacy skills, all of those talents and experiences they learn, we have to have those for agriculture to advance,” Moser said. “We need students that have the background and experience, in addition to education, to be the next generation of leaders. My generation has made their mark, and we’re ready to hand it off, and these kinds of experiences are really going to help advance the agriculture, and beef industry.”

Clint Rusk, Ph.D., Head of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Oklahoma State University, served as a judge for the future professionals interviews and attended Bridging the Gap. “I had a fun day recruiting students and talked with 18 potential students from 12 states during the Bridging the Gap event,” Rusk said.

This year more than 20 juniors participated in the future professionals contest. This was the second year for this particular contest and the NJHA looks to expand it even more in the future. For juniors interested in networking with colleges and industry professionals, plan to attend the 4th annual Bridging the Gap program at the 2022 JNHE in Louisville, Ky.

Faye Smith is a junior at Kansas State University majoring in agricultural communications and journalism. Smith served as a member of the 2021 JNHE ambassador team.