AgriGrowth Highlights RealTime Talent Research in Agriculture’s Labor Force Needs

An article was published in AgriGrowth’s member newsletter on the recent findings of a study done by RealTime Talent on trends in agriculture hiring and recruitment.  The article, written by Erin Olson of RealTime Talent, notes that data suggests an industry-wide shift in hiring demand as well as supply of available workers.  Below you will find the text of the article and some graphics depicting the findings:

All signs point to a need to elevate the agriculture related workforce needs and opportunities that exist in Minnesota as well as the United States. Dramatic mechanization in agriculture has increased efficiency and reduced the need for farm labor over the past century and opened the door to new types of jobs in agriculture, including more high-tech and high-wage opportunities. Agriculture companies, trade associations, and higher education in Minnesota have witnessed this shift, but in many cases theses employment opportunities have not effectively reached the general public.

According to the USDA, the nation will see an average of 57,900 food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, and environment job openings every year between 2015 and 2020—that’s about 231,600 openings over the next four years—the result of a wave of retirement that has begun to roll through the U.S. labor force.  Unfortunately, we only expect to see an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates trained in food, agriculture, and natural resources. If they all go straight into work, only 61 percent of those expected openings will be filled.[i]

This job gap is already presenting workforce challenges for many companies, which started to post job openings online in greater numbers starting in the summer of 2013. Job posting volume in this sector has been creeping up ever since, with agriculture industry job banks, like, seeing posts in the Midwest rise as much as 49 percent between 2014 and 2015.[ii] graphicsfornewsletterarticle1

In the first six months of 2016, AgriGrowth member organizations had 47,837 open positions that required experience or knowledge of food, agriculture, farming, the environment, or natural resources, matching similar counts from 2015.[iii] About 7,000 (or 15 percent) of these jobs were in Minnesota.  While AgriGrowth members consistently sought drivers, sales workers, production supervisors, and engineers over the past decade, the majority of job postings in Minnesota during the first six months of 2016 were for marketing managers, management analysts, and financial positions.  The demand for these kinds of workers is growing.


This increasing need for management and financial professionals is consistent with the message AgriGrowth has heard from the companies it works with. This summer, AgriGrowth partnered with RealTime Talent in a comprehensive survey of member organizations. The survey sought to identify the greatest challenges and opportunities in agriculture hiring, recruitment, and workforce planning. When asked to indicate their top three most difficult positions to fill, the word “manager” was the most frequent.  Service technicians, animal care providers, and sales associates ranked as the most challenging positions to fill, with 23 percent of all organizations anticipating hiring new employees in sales, business development, management, or information technology between April and October.


More than half of companies said the biggest problem is that there are simply not enough applicants to fill vacancies, and that those who do apply lack either the soft skills, character traits, or experience in agriculture necessary to do the work. Most companies feel neutral or satisfied with their ability to find candidates with relevant education or certifications, but candidates still tend to lack necessary experience and skills.

There is consensus on the reasons positions are difficult to fill, but the workforce challenges faced by agriculture companies are extremely diverse. The concerns expressed by companies vary by size, type, and whether or not the company has staff designated to human resources activities. The top three workforce concerns among large companies—particularly those with human resources departments—are employee acquisition, perceived drops in youth interest in agriculture jobs, and employee retention. Agribusiness and food companies of all sizes are also particularly concerned about local non-agriculture competition when it comes to finding future candidates. Farms and smaller companies without human resources professionals on staff are less focused on future recruitment and tend to focus on current workforce gaps, targeting efforts in employee retention, compensation and benefits, and training.


All of these insights allow AgriGrowth to better understand the workforce needs of its membership. “This survey was extremely useful in helping AgriGrowth better understand the various workforce challenges facing our members in recruiting and filling their employment needs” said AgriGrowth Executive Director Perry Aasness.

Judy Barka, Program Manager at AgCentric, says that the survey findings remind her of conversations she has had with employers around the state. “I have been hearing from a variety of Agriculture Industry partners about the importance of soft skills. This report confirms everything that I have heard in the field,” Barka said. She asks agriculture companies “if lack of youth interest in jobs in agriculture was identified as a top workforce concern, what are you doing about it and how can we work together on this issue?” AgCentric and the Southern Minnesota Center of Agriculture have used the findings from AgriGrowth’s survey to guide discussions around what the agriculture industry wants from graduates, to help Future Farmers of America (FFA) encourage high school students to explore jobs in agriculture, and to develop new partnerships with the Department of Agriculture.

The Centers of Excellence and other academic partners were pleased to learn that about 80 percent of AgriGrowth members participating in internship or dual training programs report that candidates that come to them through these programs are “consistently better” than those who do not. It appears that internships, on-the-job experience while undergoing training, and direct referrals from schools lead to the greatest employer satisfaction with candidates—second only to internal employee promotions.

With these findings, the future work of RealTime Talent will focus on developing career pathways in agriculture that match changing industry needs, reviewing curriculum to incorporate important experiential and soft-skill elements, and improving the connections between employers of all sizes and skilled, experienced candidates. As a result of this survey, AgriGrowth has a stronger understanding of the talent needs of its membership and a renewed energy to drive the public message of the agriculture industry’s important place in our growing economy.

“I appreciate the time many AgriGrowth members took to fill out the Real Time Talent Survey”, said Aasness.  “Enhancing our awareness of the workforce recruitment and hiring challenges facing our members will enable AgriGrowth to better represent the needs of our sector as we continue to work with the Real Time Talent board and staff.  AgriGrowth looks forward to continuing to work with Real Time Talent and its other collaborators in support of private/public efforts to better align workforce development efforts that will benefit and support the needs of Minnesota’s agriculture and food sector.”

[i] The full article by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can be accessed here:

[ii] From the March 2016 edition of Agri Marketing: report on agriculture candidates and job trends.

[iii] Counts of online job postings are from the real-time data source TalentNeuron Recruit, which extracts data on skills, certifications, salary, and other requirements from jobs posted online.  For further information on this data, contact or visit


Download the original article here or view the full newsletter online on AgriGrowth’s website:

RealTime Talent Closes FY 2016 with an Announcement of Funding for an Online Labor Exchange

Happy anniversary to RealTime Talent! One year ago, we embarked on a journey to bring partners across the state of Minnesota to build the world’s best workforce right here at home.  We started by building our team and providing hundreds of practitioners across the state with access to a robust real-time labor market tool called TalentNeuron Recruit (formerly Wanted Analytics).  We trained over 900 people in this tool and presented to over 1,500 on applications of new data sources in labor market research, planning, and development.


RealTime Talent is excited to announce that we are no longer a “one tool wonder.”  While we continue to work to expand the use and accessibility of real-time data by providing licenses, technical assistance and research using TalentNeuron Recruit, we feel very fortunate to be receiving legislative funds to pilot a new online labor exchange.  The goal of this pilot is to explore new technologies that bring efficiency into the job seeking and hiring processes while also impacting disparities.  Strategies include removing common sources of bias in the hiring process, increasing candidate access to information about the skills and certifications desired by employers, and providing employers with a tool that truly matches the most qualified candidates with their job openings. Look for a summary of our evaluation of current tools and technology coming in mid to late August.


RealTime Talent is looking for partners in this innovative work to better match candidates with the best opportunities. Our goal is to pilot regionally and / or with industry specific context, as well as with colleges and universities.  Contact Jess Niebuhr to learn more.

RealTime Talent’s Newest Labor Market Data Tool

Since August 2015, RealTime Talent has connected Minnesota academic institutions, workforce training centers, employer associations, and economic planners with one of the most robust real-time labor market data tools available in North America. Selected out of dozens of similar systems, CEB’s TalentNeuron Recruit offers access to robust micro data on employer job openings in a low-cost, user-friendly interface. Here, we aim to answer some common questions about this data tool, including why we love using it in Minnesota.

  1. What data does TalentNeuron Recruit collect and where is the data stored?

TalentNeuron Recruit collects online job postings worldwide, pulling from over 25,000 different sources for just North America alone.  It spiders to over 15,000 job boards and over 12,000 different corporate sites and aggregates data on what employers are looking for in a new hire.  Using custom designed algorithms and a user-friendly interface TalentNeuron Recruit organizes information into data that is valuable for planning and service delivery.  TalentNeuron Recruit has been collecting postings since 2005, currently storing over a billion individual job postings in a centralized database.  Four years of data up to today’s date is available by subscription by username, with over 300 usernames currently distributed across Minnesota.  The data is extremely current, reflecting immediate changes in labor market demand, with the unique ability to drill down to details that traditional labor market data cannot. For example, data is searchable by:

  • Date Range (up to current date and time)
  • Geography (city, county, MSA, district, state, region, nation)
  • Employer (direct, staffing, anonymous postings, contract, temporary, seasonal)
  • Occupation (SOC), Industry (NAICS), Job Title, Function
  • Requirements (certifications, education, skills, licensing)
  • Experience Level (entry, mid, senior)


  1. What is purpose of this data tool?

TalentNeuron Recruit is a real-time data tool focused on bringing up-to-the-minute labor market information to employers, regional planners, education, and those serving job seekers.  It provides valuable information on the current hiring demand for certain positions and skill sets, giving a glimpse of which employers are currently recruiting, how they recruit for key positions, what their specific skill needs are, and where they advertise vacancies.  Companies can compare their postings, median salaries, and qualifications to competitors and gain valuable recruiting insights.  TalentNeuron Recruit can also be used to understand what new skills, jobs, or fields are increasing in demand and where qualified candidates can be found.  It can also scan a resume, job posting, competency pyramids, career pathways, or curriculum content and match job postings that have similar requirements.


  1. Who uses TalentNeuron Recruit regularly in Minnesota?

While the potential applications are vast, here are a few ways that Minnesota organizations are using the tool right now to overcome our labor force challenges:

  • Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) use TalentNeuron Recruit to help clients find jobs, by analyzing resumes, performing advanced searches based on client skills and experience, or exploring salary and experience in desired career pathways;
  • Government and employer associations use the data to show businesses what is going on in their markets, study employer competition, explore leads for new business opportunities, and to give advice to companies on how to recruit or fill their jobs;
  • Non-profits and organizations find TalentNeuron Recruit useful when developing grant proposals, analyzing organizational impact, and evaluating whether to scale up or scale down training programs;
  • Researchers use the data to report on micro trends in current job openings, employer demand, and study emerging fields like Healthcare IT and our “gig economy;”
  • Education (K-12, higher ed, training organizations, certifications) use TalentNeuron Recruit for the elaboration of career pathways, curriculum development, and employer engagement.

Currently, 85 Minnesota organizations hold user agreements in TalentNeuron Recruit, with an estimated 890 individuals who have used the data tool to better align Minnesota’s labor force and job opportunities.


  1. Does TalentNeuron Recruit link to any other data systems or sources?

TalentNeuron Recruit includes third-party data in the tool:

  • All jobs are matched up to BLS SOCS as well as NAICS codes (updated annually), making it easy to compare data to other data classified in this way
  • US College and University Graduate data (a survey produced conjointly by the U.S Department of Education, the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Statistics. They gather information through a direct survey sent to more than 7,500 institutions. This includes research universities, states colleges and universities, private religious and liberal arts colleges, community and technical colleges and non-degree-granting institutions)


  1. What is the benefit of TalentNeuron Recruit using data from other sources?

TalentNeuron Recruit uses the Standard Occupational Classification codes as defined by the most recent data available via the Bureau of Labor Statistics, allowing for sorting positions by how they would be classified by BLS or DEED.  The site also allows for sorting by job function, skill, and other qualities, making it a very flexible tool that can adjust to an ever-changing market.

The Hiring Scale, a measure of difficulty to fill a particular position, is calculated using information from the online job postings in conjunction with monthly local unemployment rates and graduate data.

BLS wage data by occupation is published on TalentNeuron Recruit to estimate annual salary for positions where there are too few postings for a position to establish a reliable median posted salary.


  1. Where can I go for more information on TalentNeuron Recruit?

For general information visit CEB’s website.  If you are an organization located in Minnesota and have specific questions about the tool or would like to know if your team can get access, we invite you to reach out to RealTime Talent’s User Engagement Project Manager, Marian Rengel, at

How One Organization Used Real-Time Data to Explore Healthcare Recruiting in the Twin Cities

Labor market data (LMI) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, DEED, and the U.S. Census Bureau can tell as a lot about our state’s economy and labor force: our current unemployment rate, how successful college graduates are in getting jobs, and disparities in employment by race and ethnicity, to name just a few. These traditional data sources are invaluable to academics, economic development planners, and workforce developers who need hard data on Minnesota’s labor force statewide. In many cases, this data is also available regionally by DEED’s economic development regions, and sometimes by metropolitan area. However, these traditional data sources tell us very little about which employers are hiring now, the kinds of hard and soft skills that are currently in demand, or where job vacancies are advertised.

LifeScience Alley is one organization that is using new real-time labor market data from TalentNeuron Recruit alongside traditional LMI sources to analyze detailed healthcare recruiting trends in Minnesota. In their Quarter 2 workforce report, they found significant demand for engineers, making up 17 percent of all open positions advertised online by healthcare companies.  Medical device manufacturers, IVD, and pharmaceutical firms were found to have the most open positions during that quarter, with most job openings seeking candidates with skills in quality systems and quality assurance. They also discovered that most positions advertised in the Twin Cities were concentrated in the northwest in cities like Plymouth and Fridley.

Take a look at LifeScience Alley’s report to learn more about the healthcare industry in the Twin Cities metro, or use this as an example of how other organizations might use this data source to better understand their local labor force economy.


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