Get Set For Your Future: Student and Industry Mixer and Networking Event

One of the enduring challenges in agriculture is finding ways to connect people with industry and on-farm expertise to students and young people. Many are interested in a career in agriculture but find themselves with no background or experience. The gap is felt on both sides, and with busy work and school commitments, opportunities to connect are few. This need inspired the PIP Get Set for your Future: Poultry Industry and Student Mixer. Now in its third year, this unique event relies on the generosity and mentorship of its industry volunteers.

Get Set for Your Future is a three-hour event where students meet industry professionals, share a meal, and rotate through tables in a speed-dating style format. Through conversations and networking, students learn about the many different commodities and job opportunities in the poultry world. They can ask questions and get to know the real people who live and work in this vibrant agricultural community. 

Details of the event are shared through social media, presentations on the first day of classes and targeted emails. Students register ahead of time and organizers plan the tables and food accordingly. Poultry experts volunteer their time to head up a table representing their corner of the industry, answer questions, provide mentorship and introduce the students to potential job and career options. 

Display and information booths are also a part of the event, featuring the Heritage Chicken Program and Poultry Unit, Poultry Research Centre Student Club (PRCSC), Poultry Innovation Partnership (PIP) and (this year) a Graduate Student booth where current grad students can share opportunities, experience and advice. Students are made aware of awards and Internships and can take chicken themed selfies to share on social media. 

Industry experts volunteering their time for this event include Susan Schafers (Egg Farmers of Alberta), Teryn Girard and Hollyn Maloney, DVM (Prairie Livestock Veterinarians), Christina Osborne, DVM, (U of A Director of Animal Care, ALES), Jerry Emmanuel (Cargill Foods),  Nancy Fischer (Country Junction Feeds), Airell Deslauriers (Poultry Partners), Rianna Melan (Poultry Partners), Jesse Hunter and Rachelle Foss (Maple Leaf Foods – Processing), Cara Prout (Alberta Turkey Producers), Dr. Rob Renema, Byron Ferrence and Tara deVries (Alberta Chicken Producers),  Dr. Sasha van der Klein (Hendrix Genetics), Dr. Frank Robinson, Dr. Martin Zuidhof and Dr. Doug Korver (U of A Research/Academia), Viki Sikur (Canadian Hatching Egg Producers), Cora Scheele and Nancy Robinson (Alberta Hatching Egg Producers.) Booth hosts include Kerry Nadeau/Taresa Chieng (U of A Poultry Unit and the Heritage Chicken Program), Dr. Mohamad Afrouziyeh (PIP Research Associate), Emanuele Goes, Etse Obi (Grad student booth) and Julia Neyedly, Gabrielle Jensen, Hannah Rigger and Giorgianna Leddy (PRCSC.)

The evening begins with conversation and a shared pizza dinner. Students and experts mingle, and conversations begin at the booths and over food and drinks. The atmosphere is fun, lively, and full of anticipation. After dinner, the poultry industry experts move to individual tables for the timed, speed-dating style interactions with students. 

This is an amazing opportunity for both parties to share information, ask questions and learn firsthand what industry and farm life is really like. Students have reported that they had no idea there were so many different occupations in poultry. Many are pre-vet students who enter university with a love of animals and the impression that veterinary medicine is their only career option. Students learn about raising pullets, egg farming, the hatching egg and broiler industry, turkey farming, what it’s like to work for a big company like Maple Leaf, processing, poultry research, heritage birds and genetics, running a poultry unit at a university, nutrition for birds, multiple options for poultry veterinarians and all aspects of running a farm. Industry representatives get to meet potential employees and offer opportunities for experiential learning and internships. It’s a win-win for everybody. 

Students move from one table to the next when they hear the sound of a rooster crowing and when everyone has visited every table (usually in groups of 4-6 students), the evening comes to an end. Networking and further conversations ensue, giving students the opportunity to dig a little deeper with the individuals and career options that most interested them. At the end of the evening, students are gifted a swag bag with items donated from industry and one student will win the opportunity to “shadow an industry professional for a day.” 

Students do not pay for the Get Set for Your Future event and experts volunteer their time because they feel it is an invaluable and priceless opportunity to connect. In return, they share the joys, highs and lows and opportunities that abound within the poultry community. Friendships have been formed, internships and job vacancies have been filled, career choices inspired, and a wonderful evening is had by all. 

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