The 16-week pilot program will take place at the Brantford Aviation campus
By Diego Flammini
An Ontario college is launching a program to give students hands-on experience with modern farm equipment.
Conestoga College’s will welcome 16 students in January to participate in the school’s Agricultural Equipment pilot program.
“The concept is students are going to have a chance to understand a variety of agricultural equipment,” Stephen Speers, chair of Workforce Development & Partnerships – Trades at Conestoga, told Farms.com. “Everything from tractors to sprayers to combines and tillage equipment.”
Courses within the program include ag equipment maintenance, welding techniques and equipment operation.
With students starting in the winter, they’ll have an opportunity to interact with the equipment right from the start.
“A lot of this equipment will be in the shop,” Speers said. “So, the students will learn a lot about maintenance like how to do some basic repairs, how to calibrate a spray nozzle or how to string a baler.”
The school is working with local dealers and industry partners about providing equipment for students to use.
Conestoga College is offering the course at its Brantford Aviation campus.
When the weather allows, students will have the chance to operate the equipment on 14 acres of land the school has access to through an agreement with the City of Brantford and Brant County.
“Nobody is going to leave the course as an expert equipment operator,” Speers said. “But they will be able to safely work around equipment in a farm setting, how to maintain pieces of equipment and how to perform basic operations.”
Speers and other local representatives consulted with members of the Brant County ag community to discuss the course and what it should entail.
Will Stoneman, a member service representative with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, participated in those discussions.
The course content highlights the collaboration between stakeholders, he said.
“I think the program compliments Brant County and the ag community around the area,” he told Farms.com. “We tried to shape the program around employers who are looking for operators.”
In addition to filling labour gaps, officials hope the program will help redefine what working in ag mean.
Many people may assume working in the sector means having their own farm, when in fact the industry needs skilled workers like equipment operators.
“I don’t think people realize how technical and how much technology is involved in this industry,” Stoneman said.
“One of the goals for us is to reframe the idea of working on a farm,” Speers said. “I don’t think we were having as much success in attracting people to careers in agriculture. We’re hoping people see the potential in joining the program.”
Conestoga College will be hosting a virtual information session on Dec. 10 for anyone interested in learning more about the program.