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New readiness campaign to cultivate ag-tech workforce

USDA ARS WFP-ARS-automated-irrigation.jpg
Near Fort Collins, Colorado, agricultural engineer Harold Duke sets up an automated sprinkler irrigation system. Tech advancements are making work in agriculture more specialized, and training programs will be critical, CEO's say.
Farmers need laborers with skills to navigate new on-farm technology.

California Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross is teaming with a growers' group to offer a series of in-person workshops aimed at training labor crews to navigate new on-farm technology.

Ross and Western Growers introduced the AgTechX Ed initiative, which they say will bring together universities and colleges, farming and agricultural partners, and technology companies across California to transition the agriculture workforce to master rapidly developing agricultural technology.

The initiative will kick off with the first AgTechX Ed event on Aug. 25–26, 2021, at Reedley College, with future events to be held in Imperial Valley, Monterey County and the greater Sacramento area.

In addition to the events, AgTechX Ed will facilitate internship/apprenticeship opportunities, job shadow programs and regional career mixers, Western Growers stated in a release.

The initiative will also build on existing WG workforce development programs that encourage youth to pursue careers in agriculture, including Careers in Ag and Junior AgSharks, according to the organization.

“To rise to the occasion of feeding a global population of 10 billion people in the next 30 years with fewer resources and labor, we need to start investing in preparing tomorrow’s agricultural workforce today,” Ross said. “Education starts in the classroom, and that’s where agriculture prominently needs to be. As the development of technology rapidly accelerates, initiatives such as AgTechX Ed lays the foundation for new tech-based education training platforms that will build an adequately trained workforce.”

The initiative comes after company CEOs said during the Salinas Valley Ag-Tech Summit in March that efforts to recruit and train workers for ag-tech fields will be crucial to keep the agriculture industry viable in an age of heightened government and consumer demands for sustainability and food safety.

“As we face chronic and worsening labor shortages, escalating labor costs and legislative mandates, and dwindling access to water, crop protection tools and other inputs, the rapid development and deployment of technology is our best hope to preserve California’s farmland and regional agricultural economies,” said Dave Puglia, Western Growers president and CEO. “AgTechX Ed is an exciting and critical initiative that can help advance the tech-expert workforce we must have to continue producing healthy California-grown foods.”

Registration for AgTechX Ed at Reedley College will be available later this summer at www.wga.com

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