The Dakota Precision Ag Center (DPAC) has been awarded two grants totaling $3.28 million for the development of training programs in precision agriculture. DPAC will develop the programs to fill in-demand jobs requiring skill level in precision ag technologies and enhance our current workplace training at North Dakota agribusinesses and implement dealers.
Precision agriculture included remote sensing or GPS, soil and grid sampling, and information management tools.
DPAC focuses its efforts on this growing sector of the agriculture industry. dr. Paul Gunderson, director of DPAC, will lead the development of the programs that he hopes will identify the best ways to deliver the technical education that the grants support.
“There’s an accelerating rate of adoption and use of precision ag technologies in the High Plains,” Gunderson explains. “The dilemma is that we need more people who can provide service for these technologies. Currenty nationwide, there are 8,000 unfilled positions requiring knowledge in precision agriculture, but not enough people with the right skillsets to fill those openings.”
One of the grants comes from the US Department of Labor, The grant’s $2.99 million will fund training to recent veterans of workers who are currently unemployed due to foreign trade. Participants will undergo assessments to determine individual skills, engage in an array of training activities based on their assessments and complete three month internships. DPAC plans to provide training through this program from Minnesota to Wyoming.
The North Dakota Department of Commerce’s grant for $288,600 will provide additional education for workers already employed in agriculture. Employees of implement dealers, agronomy firms, farm operation and other agribusinesses across the stat will receive training in computer technology, customer service, precision ag technologies and DC electronics.
“Equipment and software companies provide education for their own products, but what I heard from agribusinesses across the state was that their employees needed more education on how to integrate different types of technologies,” says Gunderson. “They also desired more focus on customer relations, since employees spend a lot of time one-on-one with customers on fields and farms.”
The Department of Commerce’s grant required matching funds from partner companies. Several organizations have committed to provide equipment, software and expertise.
Gunderson says that DPAC is beginning plans to build an extensive team to provide training and to develop curricula made possible by the two grants. The programs will start in 2013. Future announcements will be made when enrollment opens.
For more information visit the Dakota Precision Ag Center website.