“You will be surprised” is the logo written on the t-shirts of the bunch of youngsters at the GCARD2 pre-conference session of YPARD, which stands for Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development.
The leaders of the movement have reason to say so. Since its creation in 2006, YPARD has been acting as a platform for knowledge sharing for young professionals to give them an opportunity to interact with each other at various forums. The GCARD2 is exceptional example of this kind of forums, where YPARD brought almost 30 youngsters to report on the conference through social media. Besides learning how to use social media tools for professional purposes, the YPARD members are also working hard to get their voices to be heard at the relevant CGARD2 sessions.
There are four key messages YPARD will take to the plenary session:
1. Young professionals have to be educated more on transversal – or ‘soft’ – skills. These are for instance interdisciplinary and intercultural teamwork and presentation skills. In order to achieve this, active learning is crucial. For this change in curricula it is important to involve a mixture of stakeholders (including the youth).
As a side note to the point above: it is important not to forget about the technical knowledge basis at the same time. In the end, as professional in agricultural research you will be talking with farmers (who might also have a university degree).
2. Very important is to change the image of agriculture from the ‘struggling farmer’ to the ‘farmer as entrepreneur’. Therefore young people should be supported to take on extra-curricular activities and internships and highlight positive experiences with agriculture.
3. Agricultural research should shift from a quantitative to a qualitative reward system (i.e. from number of publications to significance of certain research topics). Youth should be engaged on country level to change this reward system in ARD.
4. It would be fantastic if job offers would state ‘professionals under the age of 35 are encouraged to apply’. This is now the case for women as tool for positive discrimination. Stimulating this for young professionals can make a huge difference to give youth access to jobs and funding.
Courtney Paisley, YPARD coordinator, is very much hopeful that the events like this will help youngsters to build their professional network, get more motivated and encourage their colleagues and friends in their home countries to be more active too. To the question what reaction she expects from conference participants regarding youth concerns, “knowledge of youth issues is growing. I hope they will listen” she replies.
Blogpost by Firdavs Kabilov & Machteld Schoolenberg, two of the GCARD2 social reporters.