By Tim Kalinowski
The Western Equipment Dealers Association has joined forces with the Canada Equipment Dealers Foundation, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Sun West School Division to create hands-on learning opportunities for the agriculture equipment technicians of the future. By making a $100,000 donation to start new online high school and distance learning programs, WEDA and it partners hope to make have a real impact on industry training levels in the province of Saskatchewan.
Sun West Distance Learning Centre will be offering a 20 and 30 level agriculture elective for high school learners across Saskatchewan. Agriculture Equipment Technician (AET) 20L and 30L will each include 50 hours of online theory, 40 hours of practical work study at an agriculture dealership and a 10-hour boot camp at Sask. Polytech.
High school learners will be introduced to both the technical and interpersonal skills needed for a career in the agriculture sector, as well as future employment opportunities. Upon completion, the AET 20L and 30L courses translate to Practical and Applied Arts (PAA) credits on their high school transcript.
Larry Hertz, regional vice-president of WEDA, said such programs are necessary because there is a pronounced shortage of ag. techs in the industry right now.
“There is a current shortage of one to two agriculture equipment technicians in nearly every dealer location across Saskatchewan,” confirms Hertz. “Creating awareness of the need for technicians along with the vast number of good paying stable career opportunities at our dealerships is our goal.
“Our dealers are always looking for quality technicians, so we thought we could better support them by encouraging high school students to check out this kind of career has to offer a little earlier.”
Hertz says he hopes students taking the courses will realize the diversity of things they could be working on in the ag. industry, especially with new high tech advancements just over the horizon.
“We want to show them this isn’t just about pushing tools anymore, this is technologically advanced stuff,” he says.
Chris B. Thomson, program head for the Agricultural Equipment Technician program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, said the course and boot camp will give students a real-world view of what it is like to work in an ag. dealership.
“If they can get that earlier exposure,” he says, “they can begin to develop a better understanding of the ag. tech issues of today.
“What we want to do is give them safety training and teach them about different areas of ag. tech, and from there be able to plug them into a dealership and expose them to those different aspects. There they can see how a dealer operates and decide what area might be for them.”
Thomson says he is also looking for relatively new ag. equipment donations to develop hands-on learning opportunities. Call (306)-659-3866 for more information.