Look around at any industry meeting and there is a common theme among the participants: their age.
Encouraging young people to pursue careers in the beef industry has been a priority for quite some time, yet it is still a challenge we face. Access to financing and affordable land to run profitable operations, lack of clear succession planning and limited mentorship opportunities are all barriers that youth face in pursuing a career in beef production.
Many of these issues are targeted in the new National Beef Strategy. However, this is not a new challenge. In 2010, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) introduced the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL) program as one way to help provide tools for youth in the beef industry to succeed and through this initiative, many have done just that.
CYL is the flagship mentorship program of the CCA designed to develop future leaders in Canada’s beef industry. Each year, beef enthusiasts between the ages of 18 to 35 are given the opportunity to apply to the program and 24 semi-finalists are selected. The online application process opened in January and the deadline for eligible candidates to apply is in late March. Semi-finalists are invited to attend round table discussions at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference where 16 final candidates are selected. As of 2019, over 100 people have graduated from the program.
Once selected, CYL participants are matched with a hand-selected expert in the mentee’s specific field of interest. Topics of interest can range from sustainable ranching to risk management, policy development, research and more.
Once candidates are matched with their respective mentors, the mentor/mentee journey begins. With the creation of an initial road map, the mentor and candidate set out the goals they wish to achieve during their time in the program. Candidates are given a yearly budget of $2,000 to fund their participation in numerous industry events and conventions, as well as travel to meet with their mentors if necessary.
Through attendance of industry events, meetings with their mentors, and the completion of the Beef Advocacy Canada program, the candidates build upon their knowledge base and become highly capable individuals to represent and lead the beef industry into the future. The program benefits both parties involved by exposing a young person to elements of a potential career choice, and at the same time, being an extremely rewarding experience for the mentor.
The CYL program highlights the best and brightest of the industry, so it is no wonder that many have gone on to pursue successful careers not just in primary production, but as staff and elected officials in various industry organizations, including CCA. Stacey Domolewski, 2014 CYL graduate, is now the science and innovation co-ordinator for the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), while another graduate from that year, Ellen Crane, works as BCRC’s extension co-ordinator. On the provincial level, 2016 graduate Jesse Williams is an Alberta Beef Producers delegate in Zone 4, 2014 graduate Jaclyn Horenberg and 2015 graduate Bethany Storey both work for Beef Farmers of Ontario, and 2018 graduate Amy Higgins works for the Maritime Beef Council.
In fact, a recent CYL graduate now helps new CYL’s get the most out of their mentorship experience. At the beginning of January, we welcomed Jessica Giles, who participated in the 2018 CYL program, as the new youth leadership co-ordinator here at CCA.
Giles comes from a mixed grain and cattle operation near High River, Alta., and was mentored by Dianne Finstad, agriculture and rodeo reporter and broadcaster from Red Deer, Alta. While focusing on writing, public speaking and networking opportunities, Finstad was able to expand Giles’s network in agriculture communications, as well as equipping her with skills to tell the story of Canada’s beef industry through her previous role as an agriculture journalist. The travel budget for participants also allowed Giles to take in events like the Alberta Farm Writers’ Association tour and the CCA annual general meeting in Ottawa.
After what she describes as a memorable year of growth, Giles is looking forward to helping like-minded young people excel through the mentorship program and advance their chosen path in the beef industry. We are fortunate to see these talented young people flourish in industry leadership roles.
Funding for the CYL program is made available through its foundation partners: Cargill, MNP and McDonald’s Canada. The program also receives support from gold sponsors Farm Credit Canada and New Holland, and program sponsorship from the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association. We at CCA and the program participants are extremely grateful for the support received by these generous partners.
The application for the 2020 CYL program year is now open at www.cattlemensyoungleaders.com and closes April 1. I highly encourage any young readers interested in advancing their beef industry careers to apply and wish all the applicants the best of luck.