A Driving Demand for Ag Educators

November 17th, 2016 | Posted by Drip-Well

Agriculture is something that is very important to the overall success and well-being of everyone who lives in the United States. The agricultural industry produces much of the food that is consumed in this country, and in doing so, it provides Americans not only with the nourishment they need to stay strong and healthy, but also with a sturdy backbone that helps drive the economy.

There are many different aspects of agriculture that those in the industry need to learn about before they can start in their careers, however. A full education includes everything from plant and animal science to satellite mapping within the modern industry, but unfortunately there is a serious lack of ag educators across the country at the moment. It’s why the National Association of Agricultural Educators has made finding and training new teachers for the agricultural sciences a priority, leaving to the NAAE’s drive convince more people to consider becoming ag industry educators.

Agriculture Education ProgramsThe Problem

The problem that the agricultural community is facing right now is actually not new. As far back as 1921 – just four years after the creation of America’s first vocational education system – the U.S. Department of Interior realized that there weren’t enough educators to help train and educate those interested in farming and ranching, notes FFA New Horizons, the official magazine of the FFA, formerly Future Farms of America. In the decades since, more people have turned to agricultural vocations, which has been good news for the industry. However, that same education has led those individuals to different career opportunities than teaching.

Many of these alternative careers offer higher pay or more lucrative opportunities, making it hard to blame these individuals for making that choice, but this has led to a brain drain problem in the agricultural sciences and an overall decline in the number of ag educators. In the present day, there are more than 8,000 agricultural education programs in all 50 states in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, says FFA New Horizons, but the decline in the number of available agricultural educators is forcing some schools to shut these programs down or scale them back.

New Horizons reports that more than 20 such programs were shuttered in the 2012-13 school year due to a lack of qualified educators, a figure that doesn’t even consider the number of new schools opening without agricultural programs in place. This lack of access and opportunity is serving as a roadblock – deterring would-be students from seeking out agricultural jobs and creating a real need for educators to prevent this situation from becoming more problematic than it already is.

Food Science and Ag EducationThe Solution

To try and reduce the demand for ag educators, the NAAE is encouraging those who have degrees in the agricultural field to consider the many benefits of teaching those young people who are interested in learning more about it. As part of the National Teach Ag Campaign, NAAE hopes to overcome some of this staffing loss and rebuild the staffing levels at training colleges and vocational programs nationwide.

The organization realizes that there are many other areas of agriculture that those with an agricultural degree can pursue, but through its new campaign, the NAAE is working to show those who are considering a career as an ag educator that a degree in agricultural education can lead them in many different directions. Those who work in farming and ranching educational programs can work as a young farmer instructor, serve as an ag literacy coordinator, pursue a career as a farm business management instructor, or teach in any number of other educator positions. Once people realize that the opportunities within the education sector are broader than they may have previously thought, the NAAE is hoping more of them will flock to agricultural education and help fill the vacant ag educator jobs that are out there.

Improving Access to Ag EducationThe Goal

The demand is severe. Many empty positions are waiting to be filled, and the need for experts is at one of the highest levels that it has ever been. However, as the current generation of farmers, ranchers, food scientists, geneticists and other specialties begin to age out of the work force, there is a pressing need to get young people in the next generation more involved and engaged with agricultural careers.

If not enough is done now to engage the next generation and train them to have the skills needed for the work of tomorrow, American agriculture will soon face a serious lack of skilled agricultural labor which can put in jeopardy much more than just the industry. Putting excellent ag educators into place and trusting them to teach young people what they need to know needs to be done soon, and the NAAE is committed to the cause. Finding teachers and delivering the education needed for the scientists, farmers and ranchers of tomorrow keeps the country’s agricultural industry strong – and the country as well.

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