05 Aug Jessica Kueffer
Recruiting & Developing the Next Generation of Agriculture
Throughout internships and explored career paths, Jessica Kueffer wasn’t sure what exactly set her passions on fire when it came to a career. A common denominator was facilitation of trainings and mentorships, which led to a career recommendation by her mentor to a position that was not only her dream job, but one that she didn’t even know existed prior to the recommendation. As the recruitment and employee development manager for MFA Incorporated, an agricultural cooperative in her home state of Missouri, it was the perfect fit and she has enjoyed the challenges, growth and leadership roles it has given her.
What is MFA Inc.?
Most known for its retail operation with over 150 stores in their territory, they do “everything that a farmer needs.” This includes agronomy, crop protection, animal feed, animal health, farm supplies, and more. It also includes a wholesale operation that is typically a little more behind the scenes.
“When I got introduced to corporate training, there was a move from classroom style to web based,” Jessica explains. The purpose of this transition was to allow employees to develop and grow on their own time and around their busy work schedules.
Part of Jessica’s job is overseeing the learning management system which is their web based programs that use online courses to teach you about different products or services that the company offers, as well as courses on the difference between leadership and management. With over 250 different courses, ranging from as short as one minute to as long as 20 minutes, the diversity of employees that they have to be able to assist is broad.
“The part that I enjoy the most is that we go out with ‘purposeful facilitation,’ where we don’t have to focus on the small items [that are covered in the online courses,] but the items that will move the needle,” says Jessica.
Drawing more towards the skill based trainings, she still oversees the more technical courses produced by industry experts or by members of the MFA Inc. team that are experts in the area. Jessica’s specialities revolve around training on the human resources side and employee development in an effort to retain employees and keep them working in the agricultural industry.
An Internship Program Like No Other
An evolving internship dedicated to the intern and the unique experience that they wish to cultivate, the MFA Inc. interns get the opportunity to be partnered with a mentor and developed both personally and professionally.
Jessica starts the process with recruiting, interviewing, and selecting them before partnering them with an appropriate mentor within the company. Working with their mentor, she helps to develop a unique experience for the intern and develop projects that they are passionate about.
“As we develop them into that project, I look to see what trainings they can be a part of or what ride-alongs we can put them in so that they feel comfortable discussing what we have tasked them with,” says Jessica.
Internship Round Tables
One of the unique components of the internships that Jessica facilitates, is round table opportunities with the executive board for MFA Inc. During this round table, the interns have a half-day opportunity to chat with executives and corporate leaders where they can ask for career advice, school advice and more.
Understanding What Lights Your Fire
Jessica found herself in a variety of different internships and careers; not all ones that lit her fire. No matter the internship or the job, she found that if she gave it her all she was always guaranteed to get something out of it. That something could be the realization that she was not passionate about that field of work or the components of it that she truly enjoyed.
Applying herself to a job that she didn’t know was the best fit for her, Jessica found herself referred by one of her mentors within the company to her current role. While she enjoyed the culture of MFA Inc., the oil section wasn’t where her heart was. Enjoying her time working with people and speaking to an audience, she knew that the excel spreadsheet and calculus life of the oil pricing position she was in was not going to be her forever.
By taking every opportunity that you can, you will learn about either something that you love or recognize something that you don’t like. It is a false belief that, right out of college and within six months, you will find your dream “forever” job. Recognize what makes you tick, what sets your heart on fire and that will help you find the path you want to discover.
The Number 1 Skill That Recruits Early In Their Career Are Lacking
The biggest element that Jessica finds recruits lacking in isn’t necessarily one key thing, it’s how the potential employee will fit into what they call the “MFA Way.” It is about something bigger when you work with MFA Inc. and, through great customer service, they want to continue to serve their customers the best that they can.
More Jobs Than People
A myth that Jessica believed right out of college was that there were more people than jobs – as a recruiter she has found that it is the opposite. This realization has helped them understand what they can do for employee development, employee benefits, and more to retain employees. Asking the questions of “What do you like if you’re already working here” or “if you want a change, what did you not like” are ways that they continue to improve their employee experience.
Impact of Technology on Ag Jobs
Another myth is that robots and technology are going to take a lot o f the agricultural labor jobs. That’s not true. With the increase in ag technology, there is a higher demand for individuals that can work with the technology and precision tools.
If you want to learn more about Jessica’s job or connect with her on potential employment you can email her at email@example.com or find her on LinkedIn. Make sure to subscribe to the AgGrad YouTube Channel to learn more about career opportunities in agriculture and follow along on the special “30 Under 30 in Agriculture” series!
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