Three Minnesota colleges join forces for new AgCentric Center of Excellence -- Aims to prepare young people for careers in booming agriculture industry through shared resources.
USDA studies show that now more than ever, agriculture is an industry that depends on science, technology, cutting-edge applications and advanced production practices to meet increasing global demands. To prepare tomorrow’s workforce for the challenges ahead, three technical colleges in northern and central Minnesota have combined resources to launch AgCentric, a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities agriculture center of excellence focused on customized training, education and outreach.
Each school in partnership, Central Lakes College in Staples, Ridgewater College in Willmar and Northland Community & Technical College in Thief River Falls, will provide unique resources and work-based learning opportunities in different specialized fields. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad.
“It’s a way to become more efficient together and expand the career opportunities throughout the state. Through AgCentric, we’ll be able to look at what we know and look to the future and a broader vision of what we can work on together by sharing resources, curriculum and new technologies.”
“The ground is fertile,” AgCentric director Keith Olander said. “Our global population is set to surpass 9 billion in the next few decades. With more mouths to feed, the ag industry will need to rise to the challenge and create an estimated 33,000 new jobs nationally in the next five years alone. As the fifth largest industry in the state, agriculture is underrepresented by education.”
There’s a real need for knowledgeable producers, crop managers, educators, technicians, engineers and scientists according to Senator Dan Sparks (DFL District 27), chair of Minnesota Senate, Agriculture, Jobs & Rural Development Committee.“The jobs are real and they’re available all over our state and beyond.”
The jobs are lucrative, too. Those with degrees in agriculture and natural resources are currently ranked in the top five highest paid across all industries according to a recent article in USA Today, with an average starting salary of nearly $52,000 and average lifetime earnings at $2.6 million.
Olander sees the Center’s mission as two-fold – not only to prepare skilled laborers for the workforce – but also to inform the population about how food gets from fields to dinner tables. “When we talk to students in most of our areas, particularly in the urban arena, kids are a couple generations removed from farming. There isn’t a lot of knowledge about where food really comes from, or the processes involved,” Olander said. “With careers ranging from international to corporate and rural environments, planting those seeds of an agriculture career in middle school and high school is becoming more important than ever.”Story courtesy of Flint Communications.