Donations and collaboration help the OAC program educate prospective students about the ag industry
By Jackie Clark
The Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS) recently donated $500,000 to the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at the University of Guelph. The funding will support the Student Liaison Program which hosts educational and promotional events and provides resources for students and educators interested in learning about the agri-food sector.
Carleigh Johnston is the liaison manager for the program.
“We promote our academic programs through experiential learning opportunities,” she told Farms.com. “We host workshops, bring students on campus, go into their classrooms, and give them an idea of what a career or classes would look like.”
The events introduce prospective students to academic programs within the OAC “to try to get them excited about” the industry, Johnston said.
“We try to touch on everything to do with environmental sciences, animals, plants, landscape architecture, and agricultural business,” she added.
The program also provides resources and professional development for educators and guidance counsellors “to feel empowered to teach those topics in their classrooms,” Johnston explained. The program aims to “to keep (teachers) informed about trends in the labour markets and also what education pathways exist,” so they can advise students.
The goals of the Student Liaison are primarily to keep OAC enrollment strong and “to keep people working in the sector,” Johnston said.
The program uses “feedback from employers about what types of programs and what types of skills they’d like to see grads with,” she added. This feedback allows the OAC to develop and promote programs that answer industry needs.
“GRAS is a long-standing donor; it started supporting the Student Liaison Program as early as 2010,” Johnson said, explaining that she also works with “other local organizations with similar mandates such as 4-H Ontario and AgScape, the voice of Ag in the Classroom in Ontario.
“We’re all sending similar messages” she said. “That keeps us pretty connected to the agricultural community and also teachers, students, and educators, because we’re all serving the same purpose.”
Jun Zhang\iStock / Getty Images Plus photo