(Family Features) A national survey reports that students getting ready to enter the workforce are often overlooking one of the top hiring sectors – agriculture.

The research, sponsored by the America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders program, found that agriculture is not being considered by many high school and college students, despite it being one of the country’s major industries. In fact, only 3 percent of students recognize the agriculture industry as a top hiring sector.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, employers have nearly 60,000 job openings in agriculture annually, but only approximately 35,000 students with the proper training and education to fill these jobs each year.

Part of the awareness gap may be attributed to a lack of understanding of the varied job prospects and technology focus in the agriculture industry. Fewer than one in five students (19 percent) students surveyed felt they understood the career opportunities in agriculture, and only one in three students (35 percent) described agriculture as a technology-driven industry.

However, today’s agriculture industry offers a wide array of career paths for individuals with interest in technology, science, education, agronomy and business – among other fields. From agriculture economists and agronomists, to crop consultants, food scientists and engineers, experts in multiple fields – especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas are needed to drive innovations growers need to feed the world’s growing population.

To help close this gap, the America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, awards scholarships to help develop the next generation of agriculture leaders. Students looking to pursue higher education in an agriculture-related field of study from a two- or four-year program or trade school are eligible to apply for a $1,500 scholarship until Feb. 1, 2017.

“The field of agriculture provides many exciting and important career opportunities for today’s students, and we feel it’s important to support youth who are pursuing their studies in this growing and dynamic industry,” said Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund president.

To find more information or to apply for the program, visit www.GrowAgLeaders.com, or learn more about the program at Facebook.com/AmericasFarmers.

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