Students work in exchange for room and board
By Diego Flammini
A British Columbia university offers students a unique way to enter the ag workforce.
Thompson Rivers University’s Applied Sustainable Ranching program places students on host farms for two years while they earn their diploma. Students can work on their home farms or choose to be placed on a farm in B.C. or another province.
The program, which is currently in its third year, is a good mix of traditional classroom learning and hands-on applications, said Gillian Watt, the program’s coordinator.
“Students are expected to do about 20 hours of schoolwork and 20 hours of farm work each week,” she told Farms.com. “The 20 hours of farm work is in exchange for room and board, and students are paid for anything above 20 hours. If they’re on a farm in a different province they can attend classes and do group work using BlueJeans, a video conferencing system.”
The host farms provide a list of job expectations and daily routines for prospective workers. The host producers also complete competency sheets that assess a student’s performance.
Students can choose to be placed on a farm that suits their interests, but they don’t have to remain on a single farm for the entirety of the program.
“While working on one farm, they might learn about another aspect of agriculture and want to explore that, so we try to match them with a farm where they can do that,” Watt said.
Signing up to be part of the program was an easy decision for some of the farmers.
An extra set of hands to help out around the farm is always appreciated, said Debbie Rainer, a cattle producer near Barriere, B.C.
“It’s a win-win for us if a student comes to help on the farm,” she told Farms.com. “More help is always needed and, for us, it’s exciting to help promote agriculture and be part of a young person’s journey into the industry.”