Precision Agriculture Curriculum Enhancement

Technicians and specialists are needed in order to fulfill the demand of the precision agriculture industry as precision agriculture technicians, crop specialists, nutrient management specialists, precision agronomists, service technicians, and research scientists. They work with soil testing companies, crop consulting firms, and fertilizer and chemical retailers, but the shortage of precision agriculture educational opportunities limits the ability of businesses to hire qualified employees and forces them to use their limited resources on incumbent worker training. In addition, the gap between industry need and existing training leads to graduates having to retrain or take additional courses even though they have already earned a general agriculture degree. By offering an enhanced curriculum to high school and college students, this project at Parkland College in Illinois will educate a wide variety of agriculture workers in line with industry needs as it provides a robust education and training program to support the vital agricultural industry of Illinois and the United States. A focus of the project is on increasing the number of women in precision agriculture, which will strengthen and diversify an emerging American industry. The deliverables and best practices developed through the project will be disseminated through coordination with the ATE National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence, Clark State Community College in Springfield, OH, and agricultural education conferences.

Jobs in precision agriculture require a unique combination of technical and agricultural expertise that is not widely available for high school and college students. Due to the highly technical nature of precision agriculture jobs, the curriculum in the field is often outdated and does not fully prepare students for available positions. Enhancing precision agriculture curriculum for two-year colleges and connecting this curriculum with high schools and four-year colleges will dramatically improve the preparedness of technicians in a number of agricultural sectors. It will utilize the existing precision agriculture curriculum as the foundation for an enhanced program including a more comprehensive associate degree, updated articulation agreements, and the development of dual-enrollment content for area high schools. These components will create a 2+2+2 structure that will be replicable in other regions and sustainable. The project will utilize emerging technologies in conjunction with agronomy to enhance precision agriculture education and will be developed in close partnership with local and regional employers. A formative and summative evaluation process will be employed to continuously enhance the project activities and provide opportunities for researching and evaluating the success of the project and deliverables.

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