Old Mutual has entered into an agreement with Agricultural Media House, Plaas Media, to be the main sponsor of their latest empowering project, the Agricultural Student of the Year Competition.
This pioneering competition aims to inspire and encourage students to consider pursuing careers in the field of agriculture. Agriculture is increasingly being recognised as the sector that may unlock Africa’s full potential and combat its most pressing challenges. However agricultural employment can lag far behind its target of creating a million agricultural jobs by 2030 as envisaged in South Africa’s National Development Plan.
“Old Mutual is proud to participate in this exciting competition with Plaas Media, as it echoes our strategy to create a legacy of social and economic transformation and to enable positive futures. The agricultural sector is a crucial pillar of the South African economy and holds the potential to combat South Africa’s high unemployment rate and rejuvenate local communities through poverty alleviation. Agriculture is also a powerful catalyst for inclusive growth and socioeconomic transformation,” says Kanyisa Ncemane, General Manager Customer Solutions at Old Mutual.
A support system
Besides identifying winners from each Faculty of Agriculture at different Universities, this competition will also demonstrate the holistic ecosystem of support available to agri students, who will be assisted to secure good jobs. The competition also enables potential employers to identify top candidates for future opportunities in the agri sector.
“Since universities are academic institutions at which students are preparing to take their place in a certain industry, an academic competition presented in a commercial context makes sense. Although it is fairly common practice across the rest of the world, this has never been done in South Africa,” explains Albert Loubser, Marketing Manager at Plaas Media.
“We aim to grow and develop this competition to the extent where it will form an integral part of the local academic environment and calendar. The long-term goal is for the competition to include all Universities, including Technical Universities and Colleges. For the initial phase, we have decided to start out with only three universities and undergraduate students for 2018. Over time, we would also like to include postgraduate students,” Loubser said.
Categories, subject sections and qualifications
The focus of the competition will be on students across the entire spectrum of agricultural academic study at Universities. These will include an undergraduate student of the year category, per subject, and is open to final year undergraduate students who have maintained an average academic performance of 70% in their studies before their final year, or students chosen by their associated Head of Department. Students can also enter themselves if they meet the set criteria.
Agricultural students in South Africa can be broadly divided into three groups (fields of study), each of which will be handled as a separate section. These fields are animal sciences, agricultural economics and crop production. A winner will be announced per University in each category.
The finals will be held at the African Livestock Trade Fair (ALFA) 2018, which is the latest exciting agricultural event on the livestock farmer’s calendar to be held from 18 to 20 September 2018 at the Afridome in Parys.
In the run-up to the finals, each of the participating Universities will host a faculty day. The entire faculty will be involved, from first-year to postgraduate students and lecturers. During these faculty days the rules of the competition will be conveyed, students will be able to pose questions, and final arrangements will be announced.
Students will be required to write an essay of no more than 5 000 words on a specified industry topic related to the relevant field of study. They will need to maintain and support a certain viewpoint by way of an academic argument. The same topic will be presented at all Universities.
These topics are compiled by a committee consisting of Old Mutual, Plaas Media, Academics and Industry Leaders. Numerous industry organisations will also be involved in this process.
The essays will then be evaluated by the relevant faculties and three to five semi-finalists will be selected, who then deliver a 15-minute presentation to his/her fellow students. A panel of judges, consisting of lecturers of the relevant faculty, Old Mutual, Plaas Media and Industry Leaders will evaluate the presentations. A winner in each category is then selected by determining the average mark of the presentation and the essay. The three winners per University will be invited as finalists to represent their respective Universities at the national championships in September at ALFA.
A maximum of 12 category winners will this year each receive a financial prize as well as a prestigious Old Mutual jacket emblazoned with a unique “Agricultural Student of the Year” badge, providing a clear visual demonstration of that student’s excellence and recognition of their success in the competition.
During the nationals at ALFA, the category winners of each University will compete with each other to determine the ultimate winner in each subject category. Each participant’s essay will be judged by a panel of experts, while the participants will each present a poster exhibition and deliver a five-minute presentation. This is followed by a 15 minute interview with a panel of experts regarding the application of their essay in the industry. General and applied agricultural and subject knowledge is also assessed.
The last leg entails an unprepared debate regarding new industry techniques and will take place in front of an audience. The final winner in each of the three subject categories is the student with the highest average in the four legs of the finals. Three national winners will be crowned.
For more information contact Michelle Verster at firstname.lastname@example.org or 083 375 4641. Stay up to date with the competition by keeping an eye on www.agriorbit.com and following the hashtag, #OMagstudent, on social media.
For further information on Old Mutual, please visit the corporate website at www.oldmutual.co.za