Skill and Attribute Demands of Agricultural Employers: A Best-Worst Scaling Approach

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Michelle Kibler

Mentor Department



Michael Barrowclough

Co-Mentor Department



Today's college graduates turned job candidates continue to face an increasingly competitive employment search process. Employers are searching for well-rounded job candidates who possess not only subject matter knowledge and technical skills, but also 'soft' skills (e.g. - oral/written communication, working with others, being innovative/creative). According to a recent study by the World Economic Forum, by 2020 soft skills will be in greater demand than technical skills. To better understand what soft skills are preferred in new hires, a survey was administered to agricultural employers attending the 2017 Agricultural Career Fair at Illinois State University. Institutional Review Board approval was given on August 22nd 2017(1110628-2). The primary objective of this study was to determine the skill(s) these industry professionals found to be most important in new hires. A stated choice method, "Best-Worst Scaling (BWS)", was used to elicit participant preferences towards the importance of six skills in new hires. This choice-based method has significant advantages over other survey formats (e.g., ratings scales). It allows for an individual's strength of preference for multiple objects to be calculated over a defined measurement range, providing similar information as a logistic regression model. For example, results from completed surveys (n=71) indicate that respondents found 'oral/written communication' to be the most important skill sought in new hires, approximately twice as important as 'being innovative and creative'. With these results, instructors may choose to tailor existing course activities or create new opportunities to enhance student abilities in these areas and better prepare students for employment in the highly competitive agricultural industry.



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