IRVINE, Calif. — Western Growers (WG) has teamed with Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Secretary, to launch a statewide initiative aimed at developing a future workforce with the skills and knowledge to navigate emerging on-farm technology.
The AgTechX Ed initiative 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 (agtech).
“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.”
The initiative will be anchored by four AgTechX Ed events in key rural areas across California. Each event will feature a dialogue between leading farming and technology companies around the specific skills they need in their workforces, along with training opportunities available in their organizations. Additionally, local California Community Colleges and California State Universities will be on hand to share how they are revamping their curriculum and adding new educational pathways in an effort to build tomorrow’s agtech workforce.
The linchpin of each event will be a keynote conversation and networking session with Secretary Ross who will provide insight into the importance of partnerships between industry, government and academia to adapt education to the changing needs of agriculture.
“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,” said Ross. “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 first AgTechX Ed event will be August 25–26, 2021, at Reedley College. The remaining events will 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. 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.
Registration for AgTechX Ed at Reedley College will be available later this summer at www.wga.com.