Career Values and Perceptions of Agricultural Careers of Gifted and Talented Students in the Virginia Governor's School for Agriculture
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Career choice is governed by what individuals value and their perception of the realities that exist in a given field. Agriculture career education of gifted and talented students, therefore, must begin with an assessment of the values of the students, their assumptions regarding fields within the agriculture industry, and factors that influence their career decisions. This descriptive study summarized values and perceptions held by participants in the 2006 Virginia Governor's School for Agriculture (VGSA). Originally, the VGSA hosted 98 students; one student withdrew from the program. The results of the study confirmed that there is still much controversy and misunderstanding about agriculture and careers in the agriculture arena.
The testing process included a survey of career values called the Values Scale. This instrument was developed by Dorothy Nevill and Donald Super and last updated in 1989. The 106-question survey measured 21 personal career values of participants. Follow-up data were collected gauging the students' thoughts on agriculture careers, agriculture companies, their individual career goals, and the influences that shaped their career decisions.
The career values of the VGSA Class of 2006 were surprisingly similar to high school student data collected in 1989. There were slight decreases in the value placed on economic rewards and security, but many of the other values mirrored past national data. Most students (n=73) were able to name five agriculture careers with "farmer" garnering most of the responses; however, 29 students did not name a single agriculture company.
A majority of the students (n=56) stated that they had made a career decision; however, most of these (n=32) also stated their career was not in the field of agriculture. Half of those having a career goal made their decision
prior to their sophomore year in high school. Parents were named by the students as the greatest single influence on career decision among ten choices. School experiences, work experiences, and people who work in the field were also high among influences. Suggestions for further research include identifying effective methods of agricultural career exploration within VGSA and value comparisons between gifted students and the general student population.
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