Agriculture Mechanic Technicians: Meeting the Demands of Rural Washington's Agricultural Industry
This project aims to serve the national interest in educating a skilled technical workforce in agricultural industries. In response to local and regional demands, Big Bend Community College will develop a curriculum that allows students to earn a certificate or a degree in Agricultural Mechanics. Agricultural equipment has increased in size and value, as well as become more technologically complicated. Precision agriculture hardware and capabilities are now standard features on most agriculture equipment. This equipment requires service and maintenance from skilled technicians with both mechanical and technological skills. This project will develop a new curriculum that begins with basic shop competencies and culminates in a projects that requires students to combine multiple skills in mechanics, fabrication, and precision technology. The College will house this new program in the new Workforce Education Center, which includes a 5,000 square foot Agriculture Mechanics Laboratory. This project will serve Big Bend Community College's students, the agriculture workforce, and the agriculture industry with the training and skills needed in agricultural mechanics.
The goals for this project include: 1) developing an Agricultural Mechanics program that produces workforce-ready agriculture mechanic technicians; 2) developing educational pathways from local high school agriculture programs to the College's Agriculture Mechanics program; 3) supporting the teaching and learning of workplace competencies and skills; and 4) building program enrollment through outreach and dissemination. Today's agricultural mechanic technicians need to know more than how to turn a wrench and work on large pieces of equipment. Modern agricultural equipment now includes global positioning systems, mapping, and variable rate application and seeding capabilities. These "precision capabilities" are leading to efficiencies, cost savings, and reduced environmental impacts in agriculture. Adoption of precision agriculture results in decreased inputs and higher quality outputs. The agriculture industry has a long-term demand for agricultural mechanic technicians who have both mechanical skills and technological knowledge. This well-trained workforce is essential to support sustained advances in agricultural mechanization and precision practices. As a result, this project has the potential to provide career opportunities for students in the service district and the region, especially place-bound students. In addition, it can provide students a pathway for improving their personal quality of life while providing the workforce needed in the region's largest industry.