Students studying in the Precision Ag Technology Program at Parkland College receive hands-on learning for careers in a segment of the agricultural industry that is searching for employees with expertise.

During a visit to the school in Champaign, Illinois, I met with the program director, Jennifer Fridgen, who said this program has been taught at the school for the past 20 years. Since the technology changes so fast in precision ag, the school works closely with companies in the industry.

“We get a tremendous amount of industry support — all I have to do is pick up the phone and they’re here,” Jennifer said. “Precision Planting gave us that combine, and we’re turning it into a module for the students, so the kids have hands-on learning.”

Parkland works with companies such as Helena Agri-Enterprises, FS Cos., United Prairie and Precision Planting to develop curriculum around their needs.

“They often provide guest lectures for our classes,” Jennifer said.

And it is important to work with these companies, she explained, because if the information that is presented to the students is not focused on what’s going on in the industry, the students will be out of date before they ever graduate.

These companies often are quite interested in hiring students that complete their applied science degree in the Precision Ag Technology Program.

“We don’t have enough students to fill the jobs, and we’re constantly getting requests from companies looking to hire graduates,” Jennifer said. “About half or more of the students come here to learn the technology because they are going home to farm.”

Parkland College also is reaching out to students in high school. Junior and senior high school students have the opportunity to take a dual enrollment one-hour credit class online.

This class was developed from a National Science Foundation grant, and it is designed to teach students about precision ag and the careers available in precision ag.

So, if you’re a high school student interested in agriculture, but not sure about a career, I recommend checking out the precision ag program at Parkland College.

In just two short years, you can obtain your associate degree and begin your career or continue at a four-year school to complete a bachelor’s degree.

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