Happy Labor Day! Observed the first Monday in September, Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday is rooted in the late 19th century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity and well-being.
At USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), recognizing the contributions of not only employees but the people served by the agency is paramount. That is why, under Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership and the Biden-Harris Administration, the USDA is empowering people and improving lives by prioritizing such goals as making the USDA a great place to work for its employees and advancing racial justice, equity, opportunity and rural prosperity.
Preparing the next generation of the agricultural workforce is a prime example of these goals in action, and a new NIFA initiative is doing just that. The From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals (NEXTGEN) program is focused first and foremost on supporting and preparing students for the expansive array of diverse careers in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences across research, education and Extension, with an emphasis on federal government sector employment. The goal of the program is to enable eligible institutions to engage, recruit, retain, train and support students to help build and sustain the next generation through meaningful, experiential learning experiences, scholarships and student engagement activities. The primary areas of focus include:
- Paid experiential learning opportunities in food, agriculture, natural resource and human sciences, and at USDA for undergraduate and graduate students and other communities of learners
- Scholarships to support the recruitment, retention and graduation of students completing an eligible degree, certification and/or credential
- Non-formal education activities that cultivate interest in and exposure to careers across food, agriculture, natural resources, human sciences and allied disciplines among youths and other communities of learners on non-traditional academic or career paths, such as return-to-work program participants, older adults seeking employment, and formerly incarcerated individuals
- Innovative recruitment, retention and initiatives to attract students to agricultural majors and career paths and improve understanding of the processes and pathways leading to training opportunities and employment in the federal sector, particularly at USDA
More information about the NEXTGEN program, including the full Request for Applications (RFA), is available online. RFAs are being accepted through October 25.
Top image: Full length shot of a farmer working on his farm with a colleague in the background. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.