HARRISBURG, Pa. — Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding encouraged young Pennsylvanians today to apply for an Agriculture Equipment Service Technician Apprenticeship where they’ll earn a paycheck while they learn hands-on skills in science, technology, engineering, and math. Pennsylvania will face more than 1,000 job openings in the field by 2030, as current farm equipment mechanics and service technicians retire.
“Feeding the future means we need a new generation of Pennsylvanians to enter the agriculture industry today,” said Agriculture Secretary Redding. “Apply to be an apprentice – you’ll never be without work and you can be confident you’re choosing a career that’s making an impact in your community and the world.”
The Agriculture Equipment Service Technician Apprenticeship was developed to train more than 1,000 Pennsylvanians to repair and maintain diesel machines, hydraulic systems, and electrical and system controls along with global positioning and information systems and other emerging technologies. The program is sponsored by the Northeast Equipment Dealers’ Association.
The program features both a traditional apprenticeship program and a pre-apprenticeship program. Because these programs are competency-based, these programs offer flexibilities for individuals who enter the program with pre-existing skills. Individuals can test into more advanced levels of the program or have the opportunity to focus their training on mastering more advanced skills and programming, should they have already mastered entry-level competencies.
“The equipment industry has seen enormous change, driven by technology and innovation,” said Tim Wentz, Field Director for the Northeast Equipment Dealers Association. “A constant stream of new products and improvements in performance and efficiency have enabled today’s agricultural producers to accomplish in an hour what would have taken a day, week or month not long ago. We depend on our technicians to keep everything running.”
In addition to youth looking to find a meaningful career, the agriculture equipment technician apprenticeship program is an ideal fit for veterans transitioning from active duty military service. There are more than 65 military codes – from Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy – with shared skills and competencies for transfer of skills from military to agriculture equipment technician.
“If you’re a part of the two percent of our nation who have allowed us to sleep well at night by protecting and serving, I encourage you to consider becoming the two percent who feeds us,” added Redding. “The skills are transferrable, the opportunities are endless, and the work is significant.”
Applicants to the program are accepted year-round and there are no pre-requisites for eligibility other than an interest in agriculture and technology. Apprentices will earn pay while they complete their 4,000 hours of on-the-job training. As a competency-based program, students must demonstrate their mastery of skills ranging from interpersonal communication and critical thinking to material fabrication and welding.
Apprentices who successfully complete the program will receive a U.S. Department of Labor certification as an Agriculture Equipment Technician, without the time and debt of a formal college education, and are guaranteed to be paid $17.25/hour for their first job out of the apprenticeship. An average salary ranges from $40,000 to $60,000 annually, depending on skill and ability.
Pennsylvania agriculture is a $135 billion industry facing an aging workforce. Upcoming retirements leave the industry facing a looming 75,000 deficit in human capital. Through the Department of Agriculture’s Workforce Development Initiative, 25 occupations have been identified as the most in-demand in the industry in the coming years. This list includes agriculture equipment technicians among others.
–Shannon Powers, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture