Next May seems a long way off, but now’s the time for university students to start thinking about that coveted summer job. Bayer CropScience, rated one of Canada’s top 100 employers, is already recruiting next summer’s employees from colleges and universities throughout the country.
Laura Nanne had never even seen canola before her summer job with Bayer’s Certified Seed Production Department in Lethbridge, AB. It just wasn’t grown in Lanark County, ON, where the 23-year-old grew up on a mixed dairy farm. Six months working with the newest InVigor canola varieties gave her a much better appreciation of what it takes to develop quality seed. This experience will be an asset for Laura, as she begins agriculture studies at the University of Guelph this fall.
This was Jocelyn Kratchmer’s third summer working for Bayer, in Saskatoon, SK. She began in Environmental Affairs then moved to the Scientific Affairs Department, testing the effects of new chemicals on plants and soils. Kratchmer, 22, lives in town, but often helps out on her father’s family farm. “I love the farming aspect of it,” she says of her job with Bayer. “I love it most that I’m learning something new every day.” Kratchmer, who just graduated with a Liberal Arts degree in Environmental Studies, will start agriculture studies at the University of Saskatchewan in January 2012.
Shaylynn Coates, 23, comes from a mixed grain farm in Fielding, SK. She spent three summers in Bayer CropScience’s Saskatoon office. “Working for Bayer requires good people skills,” she says of her job as territorial sales assistant. “No matter how good you think your people skills are, you’re continually challenged and it forces you to grow as an individual.” A recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, she is looking at a future in agricultural sales or agronomy.
Every summer, Bayer CropScience hires about 120 students in western Canada, says Vik Kail, implement manager for Bayer. A farm background or training isn’t a requirement but applicants should have some knowledge of agriculture. “What we look for is technical knowledge from an agronomy or farm background; (self-motivation) since they’ll work quite independently; and interpersonal skills.”
Nanne, who started out in Lethbridge’s seed treatment plant, later teamed up with an agronomist. “I was working solely with InVigor hybrid production,” she says. “Each agronomist ends up working with multiple varieties, so it is interesting through the summer to see how differently they grow, mature and respond to our manipulation.”
She was assigned to a group of seed growers, with responsibility to monitor their fields throughout the season. “You do quality controls, check fields, and scout for club root, weeds, staging; that sort of thing,” Nanne says. “I can now appreciate the value of quality seed, and the labour intensiveness of the whole process.”
Kratchmer’s job consisted of environmental testing and research, studying the effects of non-registered chemicals on various crops and soils. “We’d seed the crops, spray them, and take a lot of samples,” she says. The soil and foliage samples were then tested.
It was all very different from what Kratchmer was used to. “You go from farming with big machinery to using small research equipment,” she says. “It was all a learning curve — what chemicals work for which crop — especially because I went to school in the east coast where everything is different.”
Coates’ duties included calling on specific ag retailers, working to cultivate or manage existing relationships and enhancing product awareness. She dealt with product complaints, organized and executed tours of canola and fungicide demo sites and did some field scouting. “Every week is slightly different and throughout the season there are different priorities,” Coates says. “It’s fun, interesting and never gets boring!”
Bayer treats its summer students well. “They have competitive wages and additional perks,” Nanne says. “They really take care of you — and I got to take my forklift training.” All three agree that the company offers a great team environment. “Bayer has exceptional full-time staff and no matter what, there was always someone to answer any question I had,” Coates says. “It is a very warm and friendly environment.”
“They have great products; a great team,” Nanne adds.
“I don’t think I could get a better paying job than with Bayer,” Kratchmer says. “Every year you come back with more experience and more education, you get paid more. That’s one of the major factors that keeps me coming back.”
A job with Bayer also has future benefits. “Working for Bayer presented me with numerous opportunities to meet people within the agriculture industry and develop contacts with other potential employers,” Coates says.
Some summer jobs turn into full-time employment. “A lot of the full-time staff at Lethbridge started as summer students,” Nanne says. “It’s definitely a foot in the door for students, long term.”
Nanne and Kratchmer expect the experience they’ve received on the job to profit them at university. “When I go back to school in agriculture, I’ll be more ready for it, because I’ve learned so much over these years,” Kratchmer says.
“Understanding the challenges that producers face helps me,” says Nanne, who sees her future in agriculture communication and management. “Working with Bayer has increased my awareness of farm management practices.”
“All three summers with Bayer were absolutely amazing and I have never enjoyed a job as much as this one,” says Coates. “I most definitely plan to stay in the ag industry. I thoroughly enjoy working with farmers and most likely will choose a sales or agronomy type position.”