This past Tuesday at the regular meeting of the Barton Community College Board of Trustees, members of the various advisory boards assisting the various technical programs spoke to the Trustees. They discussed their service on the appropriate advisory board, how programs at Barton have benefitted their industry, and what they saw as the future needs in their area. Agriculture was well represented by Andrew Murphy from ILS and Marvin Rose from the Great Bend Coop. With their input both the crop and livestock aspects of agriculture were represented.
What follows are some of the highlights of their comments.
• There is a strong demand for, and shortage of, qualified workers in the agriculture industry. The shortage of qualified employees exists throughout the agriculture industry, not just this area.
• The search for qualified workers is difficult, not only in terms of the hard skills needed but the “soft” skills (self-discipline, communication skills, professionalism, and critical thinking) as well.
• The days of finding a good job in agriculture with a high school diploma, GED, or not even completing high school are rapidly drawing to a close.
• The agriculture industry doesn’t need every worker to possess a B.S. degree but two-year degrees and/or certificates in specialized areas are vital for their workforce.
• Continuing education on the part of institutions like Barton is mandatory for employees to do their jobs well.
• While they realize a new employee won’t possess all the necessary skills for their particular operation, they must possess certain basic knowledge and skills to be hired.
• The ability to find answers and solutions to problems is as important as knowledge. Problem solving skills make an employee an important asset.
• Computer and technology skills are vital for employees to excel.
• As the prices of inputs and outputs increase, developing a well-trained workforce with relatively low turnover is good business and a sound investment.
• While very appreciative of the efforts the college has and is making to address the educational needs of the area’s agriculture industry, it was stressed that the college must be constantly evaluating classes and programs for relevance. And the college must continue to be responsive and agile as it strives to provide the skills necessary in the industry over the near and long term. This applies to traditional degrees, certificates and continuing education.
• Agriculture is poised for expansion with an increasing world population, alternative energy development, and the increasing values of inputs and commodities.
• And finally perhaps the most interesting and important comment. They need employees trained for jobs that as of today don’t exist and that they can’t necessarily define. Both gentlemen pointed out the jobs they are now hiring for that didn’t exist twenty or even ten years ago.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.)