If you had asked me in February what “CYL” was, I likely would have answered with a completely made-up, yet entirely coy response. Six months later? I have a whole new network of industry leaders at my fingertips, a very encouraging mentor, a community of friends, educational opportunities galore and a $1,000 budget to attend conferences.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I know, that’s far too much information to digest without an antacid. Let’s step back a bit.
Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL) is a mentorship program for young people in the beef industry (ages 18-35). I first heard about the program through Twitter, and was encouraged to apply. So, as usual, I left my application to the last minute (I do well under pressure), wrote to the best of my ability and hit “submit.” I was more than a little surprised to find out a few days later that I – along with 21 other candidates – was invited to attend part of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Spring Forum, in conjunction with CYL’s final selections.
The final process for selections was more than a little intimidating. Few of us had any idea of what to expect, and many stayed up late into the night researching the cattle industry and the opportunities and challenges around beef marketing. We then faced a panel of judges, five round-table discussions, and multiple opportunities to network.
Well, as luck would have it, I was accepted as a part of the final sixteen to participate this year! What has this meant for me so far?
- A chance to network with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and politicians
- The opportunity to meet my Member of Parliament: Kevin Sorenson.
- A tour of Parliament Hill
- A budget to assist me in attending industry events
- Greater knowledge of the opportunities/challenges of the cattle industry
- The chance to meet Tim Wiens, President of O & T Farms Ltd and a very inspiring mentor
- A trip to London, Ontario, for professional development training
- Seminars on negotiation skills and governance training as a part of CYL’s “Step 2” program (which I will discuss in further depth later)
- A trip to the 2013 Five Nations Beef Alliance conference in Australia in September (watch the site for coverage!)
- The opportunity to meet and befriend other like-minded young people
There’s no doubt the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program offers the opportunity to enhance industry knowledge and leadership skills, but I think almost as important, and often undersold, is the chance it gives young people to interact with each other. We too often overlook the impact of feeling alone. A program like CYL doesn’t just build industry leaders, it brings them together as a team.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve learned from conferences, training days and my travels across Canada and Down Under. Stay tuned!
Have you been involved in something like CYL? Is there room for more leadership skills training and professional development for youth in the agriculture industry?