With the start of a new Congress and Administration in Washington along with the start of a new session in Topeka, much of the discussion always seems to turn to the need for “good” jobs and education. With education the discussion naturally gravitates towards the high cost of four-year institutions and the debt accumulated by students and their families for a degree, if they even actually graduate. So how does that relate to agriculture?
• Whether getting ready to graduate from high school or currently working and underemployed, it appears there is a lack of “good” jobs, however you choose to define that term. Many better jobs do require a B.S. or B.A. degree or even graduate studies. While it isn’t necessary in every case to have some sort of post-secondary education, the reality is that opportunities increase dramatically with that education/training. What many miss is the fact that in areas such as agriculture, natural gas, automotive, and welding, a two-year degree or certificate is all that is necessary for individuals to obtain good jobs with benefits. While sectors of the economy cycle through ups and downs, as does agriculture, people need to eat. If you go around and ask ag employers, they are always on the lookout for good employees, even in a down economy.
• Many graduating seniors have a hard time envisioning another four years of school, especially with classes in areas they aren’t interested in or don’t see the value of. First, there is value in classes as different as American History and Macroeconomics. However, institutions like Barton Community College provide career training with two-year degrees and certificates that can take as little as one semester. In the Agriculture Program, traditional and nontraditional students can obtain two-year A.A.S. degrees in Crop Protection and Ag. Business Management. There are certificates requiring as little as 25 credit hours in Beef Cattle Production and Crop Protection. All of these allow graduates the opportunity for careers in our area, state, and region with wages significantly above minimum wage and with good benefits. Other educational opportunities found just NE of Great Bend include welding, natural gas, early childhood, healthcare fields, criminal justice and business. And for most of these programs, the classes taken can help individuals work toward four-year degrees at a later date.
• Finally, there is the question of debt. Let’s use the opportunities in agriculture. Tuition at institutions like Barton, is approximately 1/3 or less of what it costs at a traditional four-year institution. Add in the fact that instead of needing over 100 credit hours, all that is needed ranges from around 25 up to 64 credit hours, students and their families don’t accumulate large amounts of debt. And in areas like agriculture, many local industries and very willing to hire them as they are in school, work around their class schedule, and hire them on full-time after graduation. Some will provide tuition help.
While these certificates and two-year degrees may not be for everybody and every position. There is a shortage of people to fill quality, essential jobs needing only a certificate or two-year degree and a willingness to work.