Students from the University of Delaware interested in the poultry industry had an opportunity to network and interview with leading companies at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association’s College Student Career Program, which is a three-day event held during the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta.
UD sent nine students to the event, as well as Bob Alphin, senior instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and manager of the Allen Laboratory.
This year, the IPPE had over 30,000 visitors and over 1,200 exhibitors. The expo is the world’s largest annual poultry, meat and feed industry event of its kind and one of the 50 largest trade shows in the United States.
The College Student Career Program gives employers the opportunity to interview qualified college students for employment or internship openings and is one-of-a-kind in the poultry industry.
The students had most of their travel expenses covered through a grant from the US POULTRY Foundation, which is part of funding that Alphin receives for poultry programming at UD.
This grant also provides funds that are allocated to cover program costs for a poultry exploration day, in which junior and senior high school students visit and are exposed to the poultry sciences for career opportunities and exposure to science and research that is conducted in UD’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences.
Alphin also organizes a Poultry Career Seminar Series in which students learn about the many opportunities afforded to them by the poultry industry from leading industry professionals. Representatives from poultry production companies like Perdue Farms, Tyson Foods and Mountaire Farms, and from allied industries such as Zoetis, Novus International and Bayer Animal Health among others, speak with the participants.
Through funds from the grant, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources students are also able to tour a company like Perdue, to visit a hatchery, go to a commercial broiler farm, and go to a processing plant. The study trips provide students background to develop their interest in poultry science and careers.
“The poultry industry is such a dynamic industry,” said Alphin. “There’s a tremendous number of careers, and it isn’t just growing chickens and it isn’t just working in the processing plant. It is a huge business so you’ve got human resources, you’ve got marketing, you’ve got sales, you’ve got accounting, you’ve got logistics, they need engineers, so all of those kinds of things. That’s part of what I’m trying to get across to them. Luckily, I am able to work pretty closely with several of the companies on Delmarva as well as other national companies to provide these opportunities.”
With regard to the career program in Atlanta, Alphin said that students have the opportunity to go to the program twice during their time at UD. The students who go are typically sophomores and juniors looking for internships or seniors and graduate students looking for full-time positions.
Brittney Andersen, a master’s degree student who attended the program for the second time, said that she was able to interview with seven different companies.
“A company like Tyson definitely wants to find people to fill the positions so they contact you before you even head down to Atlanta. You have a phone interview with the company and then they let you know if they want to interview you at the conference. With other companies, you sign up to interview on the sheet outside their booth for a time over the three days that you’re there,” said Andersen.
In addition to getting to interview with companies, Andersen said that the networking aspect of the program was beneficial.
“The company Cobb-Vantress had a hospitality suite, so we went there and talked to a lot of people. I talked to a company that was based out of Minnesota, someone that worked for Cobb, and a professor from UConn,” said Andersen.
Andersen said she would recommend that students interested in a career in the poultry industry attend the conference and also that they take part in Alphin’s Poultry Career Seminar series and the poultry production class to give them more information on the industry.
“I would definitely advise undergrads to take advantage of this opportunity, especially if they’re interested in the poultry industry. It’s a great experience to learn about the companies. I think if they take the poultry production class first and learn about the opportunities and potential career paths, it would be a good lead-in to it,” said Andersen.