Dean of Occupational Programs Christy Christmas, Bruce Smith, treasurer WSCC Board of Trustees, James Jensen, chairman WSCC Board of Trustees, Dr. Randy Showerman, director of the Institute of Agricultural Technology at MSU, Dr. Kenneth Urban, WSCC president, Crystal Young, director of the WSCC Business Opportunity Center
West Shore Community College (WSCC) has entered into a partnership with Michigan State University (MSU) to offer two new Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences degrees; one in agricultural operations and another in fruit and vegetable management.
The partnership allows students to earn a certificate from MSU while working toward an associate degree from West Shore. The partnership between the two institutions benefits those seeking employment in the agricultural industry. Every credit earned will transfer to MSU for students seeking a four-year degree.
“We have been working with representatives from MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for quite some time to prepare this program for launch,” said Dr. Kenneth Urban, WSCC president. “Students will take courses from both West Shore and Michigan State University and the degree will prepare students to move directly into the workforce or continue in further studies in agriculture.”
Students in the program will gain a solid background in plant and soil science, precision agriculture, water management, entomology, plant pathology and business management. Students will also have exposure to new opportunities available in the industry.
In assessing need for such a program, WSCC considered a survey MSU conducted with agribusiness stakeholders in Mason, Lake, Oceana, and Manistee counties in 2012, to establish baseline data for agricultural technology education needs throughout West Michigan.
Businesses that responded represent 978 full-time annual jobs and 1,032 seasonal jobs. Analysis of survey responses indicated approximately one in six agricultural businesses requires agricultural technology education for existing employees and 42% have a need for agricultural technology education for current employees.
Over 40% of all agricultural businesses expected to hire new employees with agricultural technology skills within the next three years. Of these agricultural businesses expecting to hire, seven out of 10 also have the expectation that these positions will require the completion of a training certificate, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or non-credit training program.
West Shore staff also conducted multiple focus group sessions in mid-to-late 2015, and stakeholders were enthusiastic and attendance was significant. The partnership program with MSU is already established in other Michigan community colleges. An advisory committee will be formed to help identify the needs for agricultural careers in the region and will continue the process of working on the partnership with MSU and future offerings.
“We are very excited about what we have put together here,” said Dr. Randy Showerman, director of the Institute of Agricultural Technology at MSU. “Many of the courses will be taught by people from the community. We work with our extension educators to identify instructors. Some of the courses will be delivered online.”
All the courses are designed to help students develop a background on how to either run their own agriculture-related business or be a valuable employee in a larger operation.
“This is a tremendous value added for students in this community,” said Showerman. “Many students aren’t able to afford to go off to a four-year school and live away from home. Some students are uncomfortable with the whole idea of going to a big school.”
Contact the WSCC Office of Student Services for more information.
Author: Thomas Hawley | Executive Director of College Communications & Community Engagement