Community colleges pressured to keep up with ag tech

The president of a community college says it’s becoming more challenging to keep curriculum up to date with agriculture technology.

“Exposure to that technology is key to keep us relevant and really advance the next generation.”

Terry Wilkerson with Rend Lake College in southern Illinois tells Brownfield it can be difficult to justify the purchase of new technology when it will be outdated in just a couple of years.

“We have taken the approach of working with companies like John Deere and Syngenta and partnering with industry to have access to that technology and access to that knowledge. We are exposing students to the brand new stuff like See and Spray and autonomy.”

Wilkerson says enrollment in ag programs is good, but they still struggle to fill the demand for ag jobs, so career opportunity awareness is key.

“We don’t always do the best job of educating everybody about the opportunities in ag and the jobs that are there. Get them past the stigma that you have to own land and have a farm or you can’t be involved in ag. We are way beyond that.”

RLC currently offers degrees or certificates in ag business, ag mechanics, ag production and management, plant and soil science, veterinary assistant, unmanned aerial vehicles and welding. The college also offers sprayer applicator and truck driver training and certifications. Wilkerson says RLC also just received a Title III Grant to add an agriculture automation certificate to their course offerings.

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