ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. — During Agriculture and Food Careers Week in Pennsylvania, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding recognized Messick’s Farm Equipment in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County, one of the nation’s largest sources of agriculture equipment parts and a critical element of the region’s growing agriculture production infrastructure. Redding joined the Northeast Equipment Dealers Association to announce a new program which will help sustain industry growth by allowing the state’s equipment dealers to provide a career pathway from high school agriculture mechanics programs to apprenticeships with dealers.
“Pennsylvania’s agriculture and food industry is indeed an economic powerhouse and a sector that continues to grow and evolve,” said Redding. “We must evolve with it and continue to invest in expanding opportunities for students and workers. We must provide multiple career pathways into the industry and continue to provide experiences to those who are eager to work and who have the skills to do the jobs employers need. The pre-apprenticeship will complement the existing apprenticeship for agriculture equipment service technicians and begin to address the shortage of more than 1,000 technicians expected over the next decade.”
Redding recognized Messick’s role with other equipment dealers in Lancaster County, including Deere Country, Binkley and Hurst, and Hoober’s in supporting the development of the original apprenticeship program approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry in 2017. Apprenticeships offer non-traditional training, with technicians hired by a company to participate in a structured educational program including on-the-job training, classroom and online training.
In the program, students will get credit toward apprenticeship requirements for work they do in high school agriculture mechanics classes. Up to one-third of the training can be completed before they are hired as apprentices. Dozens of young people can participate in pre-apprenticeships and then compete for eight-12 annual apprentice slots with Lancaster County dealers. The expectation is that the program will grow quickly throughout the commonwealth and help meet the needs of the state’s agriculture producers.
“As we look toward the future and envision what agriculture will look like ten, 20, or even 100 years from now, we must marry our current needs with the needs we anticipate,” said Redding. “These apprenticeship programs fill a critical void by not only preparing today’s students and workers, but inspire future generations to pursue careers in the agriculture industry. Our efforts today will set us up for continued success tomorrow.”
This new partnership is the latest workforce development commitment made by Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and continues the momentum from his recently secured PAsmart initiative. PAsmart is a first-of-its-kind $30 million investment that creates new opportunities for workers to help them prepare for the in-demand middle class jobs of today and the future.
Pennsylvania agriculture is a $135 billion industry with tremendous opportunities, but one that is also facing several challenges, including an aging workforce. Attrition and advancing technologies will result in a workforce deficit of nearly 75,000 over the next decade. This year, the departments of Agriculture and Education created the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence, a commission charged with assisting in the development of a statewide plan for agricultural education.
Over the past three years, the Wolf Administration has invested more than $50 million in agriculture-related economic development projects; increased support for workforce development and agricultural education to help prepare students and workers for the thousands of anticipated job openings in the industry over the next decade; and signed historic legislation that has created new markets for farmers and lowered their tax burdens. The administration is also working to expand broadband access to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, creating jobs and improving infrastructure statewide, especially in rural communities.
For more information about the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s programs and services, or to learn more about the Planting the Seed initiative, visit agriculture.pa.gov.
— Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture