Sat, 08 Oct 1994

Agriculture college produces mostly white collar workers

By Prapti Widinugraheni

BOGOR, West Java (JP): The Bogor Agriculture Institute (IPB), one of the country's most prestigious universities, has unfortunately not lived up to its name.

The state college, the only one in the country that specializes in the science of farming, has been churning out mostly white collar workers looking for fixed incomes and job security.

All the rigorous laboratory practices, training and field trips that make up the curriculum have failed to instill a spirit of agriculture entrepreneurship expected of graduates from such a highly prestigious institution.

Although the general trend has long been known, its extent has surprised and worried the college's administrators.

According to Syafrida Manuwoto, the dean of IPB's School of Agriculture, 98 percent of the school's graduates now work as white collar workers. They hold positions as managers, organizing staff, educators or lecturers as well as research staff.

"Luckily, 80 percent of them still work in the agribusiness field, and 25 percent of this in the sub-system of production," she said. The other 20 percent work in non-agricultural sectors, including industry, banking, finance, journalism, trade and services.

Syafrida made the disclosure during a seminar at the IPB campus recently which discussed the college's contribution to human resources in Indonesia's agriculture field.

The seminar, opened by Rector Sitanala Arsjad, is part of a series of activities being held to commemorate IPB's 31st anniversary.

Other speakers include Dedi Fardiaz, head of IPB's research agency, and Sjafri Mangkuprawira, head of IPB's agency for community support.

Although Syafrida's survey is based on graduates of the School of Agriculture, the trend is also found in the other seven schools of IPB. They are the schools of fisheries, veterinary, forestry, mathematics and natural science, animal husbandry, agriculture technology and agriculture polytechnic.

Another survey on the intention of the school's current students revealed that the problem is partly inherent in that it had been the students' intention all along that they want to become white collar workers, according to Syafrida.

Job security

Another survey on the intentions of current students of the School of Agriculture revealed that the problem is partly inherent. Most students had always intended to become white collar workers, according to Syafrida.

The survey found that 71 percent of her students want to work in offices and 20 percent want to become entrepreneurs, possibly in non-agricultural jobs. Only one percent want to start their own businesses in agriculture. Five percent intend to continue their studies.

Syafrida said many IPB graduates strive for jobs with the government because the relatively low salary is compensated by the job security and guaranteed pensions.

"These facts show that special attention must be given to get students interested in working in agriculture," she said.

The trend is a mirror of what is happening in Indonesia as more and more people are being pushed out of the agriculture sector and into the industrial and service sectors.

It is a worrying trend nonetheless. Indonesia still needs a strong agriculture sector to support its industry and also to ensure a continued food supply to meet the demands of the ever rising population.

The tendency for IPB graduates to look for white collar jobs indicates that most students enrolled at the college because of its prestige and subsidized tuition fees. The fact that it is an agriculture college appears to be a secondary factor.

Syafrida recognizes that something is amiss in the college's teaching methodology.

She explained that the inefficiencies were caused by the extremely low investment in agriculture education, conflicts between the supply of graduates and market demand, shortages in financing and facilities, incompetent teaching staff and lack of motivation on the part of both the students and the professors.

The majority of students, who tend to relate agriculture with marginal farmers, consider the role of agriculture to be declining and therefore look towards the country's rising service and manufacturing sectors, she said.

She suggested the university, government and private sector cooperate further to reduce these inefficiencies. The agriculture sector, she reminded, was the backbone of Indonesia's economy in the past, and will continue to play a major role in the future.


Dedi Fardiaz, head of IPB's research agency, lamented the lack of interests among the private business sector in taking advantage of the college's research facility.

About 70 percent of IPB's research activities are conducted in cooperation with government institutions and state companies. The private sector accounts for the other 30 percent.

The government institutions have many projects but limited human resources and experts, which IPB supplies.

The ministry of forestry has been the largest user of the research facility, followed by the ministry of transmigration, the office of the state minister of environment, the ministry of agriculture and finally the ministry of social services.

The private sector prefers to cooperate in fields which give fast, applicable outputs or finished technologies which are easily absorbed by the market, he said. "We have yet to formulate an effective strategy to boost cooperation with the private sector and urge them to use our R&D services," he stressed.

Sjafri Mangkuprawira, head of IPB's agency for community support, said the public is also placing greater demand on the college to develop technology to meet their needs.

"We face fierce competition from other agencies which provide similar consultative services so we have to fight to obtain a project," he explained, "It's high time IPB exploited its competitive edge in providing technology, facilities, human resources and expertise to win the battle."