What feedback do your instructors solicit from local dealers on your precision farming program, and how can dealers improve their participation in developing future courses?
“As my precision ag program grew from teaching one class on the subject back in 2005 to where we now have a full 2 year precision ag degree program, I relied heavily on my local dealers for numerous things. One of the most important utilizations has been their constant review of our program and making suggestions on what we need to be covering or revamping.
“I’ve also established great working relationships with area dealers that allow us to work with them on installations, troubleshooting issues and general customer service skills. Students enjoy this as it gives them the opportunity to actively participate in hands-on learning, which is so vital these days. It also allows the students to make potential career connections that can lead to internships or full time career options with potential employers.
“If there is one thing dealers can improve on, it would be to reach out to area technical schools and/or community colleges and establish a connection with their programs. A lot more colleges could be offering more precision farming programs and courses if they just knew who was in the area and available to help them.
“Here in Iowa, we have 15 community college districts. Out of those 15, 13 have active ag programs. Out of those 13, maybe half of them have a precision farming course, like an “Intro to Precision Ag” course. Only 2 of us in Iowa actually have a true 2 year degree program in precision farming where we go in depth into precision and cover things like electronics, software, installations, troubleshooting, etc. I currently have dealers from all over the U.S. contacting me for full time placement opportunities and I wish I had more students to meet that need.”
— Kevin Butt,
Ellsworth Community College,
Iowa Falls, Iowa
“Clark State Community College in Springfield, Ohio, started its precision farming program this fall. During the concept phase we relied on many industry specialists, especially equipment dealers to help us determine the needs and to help us develop the courses needed.
“We fast tracked our efforts and are currently the only approved precision farming program in Ohio. We serve a very broad audience from production agriculture to many horticulture programs such as golf course management, nursery operations, turf and landscape, landscape design and parks and recreation. Every one of these industries sees the need for precision agriculture.
“We rely on our industry partners to keep us informed on changes, innovations and hot topics. We have a very active advisory committee who are not bashful about giving us honest feedback. We need our industry partners to help us identify training needs, provide equipment loans, field trip sites, and help identify potential adjunct instructors.
“The huge issue that is facing everyone in the broad agriculture industry is the shortage of qualified employees. A recruiter visited our campus recently and stated that his company could hire 1,000 of our agriculture students that day. The problem is that we do not have 1,000 students. We do not have even 100 students, so we all have work to do to convince potential employees that agriculture is not a “dirty” word and that we offer high paying careers with benefits, not just jobs. Today’s students want to make a difference and they can surely make a difference in precision agriculture.”
— Lawrence Everett,
Clark State Community College,
“We have 10 full-time, four part-time, and five adjunct instructors in our precision farming training program. The feedback we solicit from local implement dealerships includes information on the major performance issues with automated steering, precision planting tool technologies, crop protection product applicator automatic shutoffs, boom sectional controls, smart nozzles, combine header sensors, yield monitors, etc.
“We also ask where and what are the most fragile (or troubling) wiring harness components installed on precision agriculture tools, what service/repair technician knowledge and skill gaps persist within the worksite, where are the ‘soft-skill’ gaps and what content and skill banking should training programs transmit and what should be reserved for on-the-job training.
“In terms of improvement for the future, we also ask dealers to indicate that they wish to participate in such decision-making, by offering to serve on technical advisory boards that every publically-funded trade and industry training program in the U.S. requires, open their worksites to visitation from training program instructors and invite instructors to selected technology-specific training sessions.
“We also invite dealers to insist on design roles when training courses and specific modules are being developed by instructional faculty, offer specific pieces of technology for use within short periods of time by a training program, offer use of their training facilities or showroom space for specific 1-4 hour training sessions conducted by either training program instructors or dealership employees, or both, and offer on field-testing training modules within their own employment settings.”
— Paul Gunderson,
Lake Region State College,
Devils Lake, N.D.
“Partnerships with dealers/precision agriculture companies are key to successful precision agriculture programs and classes. The precision industry is changing and advancing daily. I often turn to dealers for advice on what are the hot topics and what do students need to be able to do to be successful in the industry today and tomorrow.
“I am lucky to have many former students in the field of precision agriculture to turn to for suggestions. Recently, we developed a new hardware course at Hawkeye Community College in order to implement a precision agriculture certificate as part of our Agriculture Business Management program.
“I sat down with a former student who owns his own precision agriculture business and he helped me develop the course and course objectives. It is also very beneficial to stay in contact with dealers in order to call upon their expertise as guest speakers. With the cost of technology it is also nice to have a strong connection with industry as they can bring equipment in to demo with students.”
— Brad Kinsinger,
Hawkeye Community College,