Numerous state ag-affiliated organizations are offering more localized educational opportunities designed to show beginners what it takes to do their dream job. The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) Mentoring Program, for instance, allows high school and college-age students the chance to be mentored by an individual within their desired career field.

“We started in 1998 with the idea of exposing young people to their desired career within the beef industry. Just getting their feet wet and having that first-hand experience often helps a student realize if a career is, or isn’t, for them,” says Julie Ellingson, NDSA executive vice president. She worked with nine mentoring/protégé teams in 2012.

Interested students are required to submit an application, and acceptance is determined based on past experience, academic excellence and the availability of a qualified mentor within the applicant’s desired career choice and geographic proximity. Ellingson says students have been matched in numerous fields. Over the years, veterinary medicine has been the most popular career field requested by applicants.

“We do an initial kickoff workshop, where we provide training on what it means to be a mentor and a protégé. This includes information about communicating effectively across generations and identifying goals and objectives,” she says. “The mentorship lasts seven to eight months, and each team is required to meet at least four times during that time. At the end of the program, a wrap-up session is held for participants to evaluate the experience and go through a graduation ceremony.”

For some teams, the mentoring relationship has continued long after the program ended, Ellingson adds. Some even ended up working together professionally following the mentoring program.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association can be reached at 701-223-2522.