Attaining a career in agriculture: A youth’s perspective

Lennon Roberts Young Professional in AgricultureThis week we take a look at successful youth in agriculture! Inspiration for this post comes from my colleagues Nawsheen Hosenally from the Mauritius and Olawale Ojo from Nigeria. Both are youth in Agriculture and Agribusiness, young professionals alike who have written encouraging messages and tips for success for youth in agri related fields.

The Caribbean like elsewhere in the world has like-minded and determined youth in agriculture. Meet Lennon Roberts (pictured right) from Trinidad and Tobago.

Lennon serves as an Agricultural Officer at the Sugarcane Feed Centre (SFC); an institution of applied research, demonstration, development and training in tropical livestock production.

Via a skype interview I was able to get some insight into his achievements and how they came about.

Keron: Thanks for meeting with me Lennon. Can you give me a quick background on yourself.

Lennon: Sure No Problem. Firstly I’ve always had an interest in Agriculture. I studied Agriculture at Secondary School both Crops and Livestock along with other subjects.

Soon after I joined the National On the Job Training Program and specifically requested to be placed in an Agricultural work environment. Hence I was placed at SFC as a clerical assistant where I remained for 3 months.

From there I made a request to be transferred into the field, as an assistant as I had interest in animal rearing. There I collected data  and assisted in trials related to primary feed production for 9 months

After that I pursued A’ levels (Associate’s Degree) then returned to SFC for 1 yr as a technician  to gain further knowledge in agriculture and animal rearing. I saw  a career  in agriculture due to practical exposure and a love for livestock and animals

Following this I attended the University of the West Indies earning a Bachelor’s of Science in General agriculture. However at each August vacation I revisited SFC and worked as technician allowing me to apply theory learned in class practically.

After graduating I was hired as an Animal Technician and research assistant at SFC for 1 year. Recently I have been promoted to Agricultural Officer at the institution.

Currently I am reading for a Master’s of Science in Tropical Livestock production

Keron: What would you attribute most to your success in finding employment?

Lennon: Well I do have a long employment history with SFC. This was due to my actions in seeking to learn more as an assistant even before I achieved my tertiary education. It was difficult but I was determined to succeed and I’m still dedicated to the livestock sector.

It’s not that you get a job in the sector with education. You need to go the extra mile and find a niche that suits you, then gain the necessary skills for that sector.

Keron: Any adversities in your career in agriculture? And how did you overcome them?

Lennon: At SFC there are a number of general workers  many of whom started since SFC was established in 1976, that take care of the animals among other manual tasks. Due to my experience and education I would be give a supervisor role to these workers, many of whom are older than me by 15 -25 years. Unfortunately some of those older persons were not happy of that situation.

To overcome this my attitude was focused on completing the job. Both I and the workers were given requirements to execute a job and we must work together to complete it. Once explained this problem was overcome.

Another problem I face is that as senior staff, I am the youngest individual (under 40 years) therefore at times my opinion is not always valued. It is an ongoing situation which I hope changes.

Keron: Thanks for the quick interview. Anything else you would like you add?

Lennon: Well I have noticed that there are even fewer young persons interested in agriculture than when I did my Bachelor’s. Unfortunately the poor perception of agriculture as a difficult career is still very much present.

In addition the current agriculture sector has many stakeholders that are unwilling to embrace innovation in agriculture and still practice the same methods of decades gone by.

Furthermore many, especially youth, are unaware of the importance of food. I’ve wondered why this is the situation.

Keron: In my opinion the public doesn’t realize the importance of agriculture and food because they can always gain access to food. It is always present. However there may be a time when this is not the case and only then will the importance become universal knowledge.

Lennon: Agreed.

This brings us to the end of the interview. Hope you have been inspired. Stay dedicated!

Lennon Roberts - Livestock Researcher


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