MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Inspiring the next generation to consider working toward a career within the agriculture equipment industry continues to be one of the greatest challenges for equipment manufacturers and dealers alike. 

However, a joint industry initiative led by the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers’ (AEM) Ag Sector Board aims to change that fact by increasing the number of equipment-specific courses taught in high schools today, to help expand awareness of and enthusiasm for the equipment manufacturing industry.

With help from the Equipment Dealers Assn. (EDA) and Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (FEMA), 36 educators from 12 states were awarded partial scholarships for certification in equipment courses starting this summer. The courses, offered through the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (C.A.S.E.), will qualify teachers to begin teaching the courses this coming fall with the potential of reaching over 1500 students in the 2019-2020 school year.

“AEM is fully committed to workforce development and we are proud to help 36 teachers receive the training that will help them fully engage their students in the opportunities available in agriculture,” said Curt Blades, senior vice president of Ag services at AEM. “By leading a teacher scholarship program in partnership with Equipment Dealers Association and Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association, we have a greater opportunity to help make students more aware of and excited about the opportunities on the equipment side of the Ag industry.”

Last year, AEM and EDA awarded 32 scholarships to teachers across the country. Those teachers impacted more than 1000 students. In a subsequent survey, one hundred percent of teachers responding believe the course sparked interest in the equipment sector. An average of 10.9 students per school indicated an interest in pursuing a career in the equipment sector as a direct result of this course.

The teacher certification initiative is just one piece of AEM’s broader, comprehensive workforce development initiative crossing the agriculture equipment and construction industries. 

“When farmers and ranchers need specialized equipment designed to address their unique local conditions, they look to shortline manufacturers for timely, innovative and affordable solutions,” said Vernon Schmidt, executive vice president of the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn. “That drive to deliver innovation requires new generations of skilled workers. We are thrilled to be part of this effort that will ultimately lead to more young professionals ready to design, engineer and manufacture the specialized farm equipment required to meet the always evolving needs of farmers."

To emphasize local workforce development, AEM, FEMA and EDA members located near the scholarship recipients have an opportunity to connect directly with the teachers and their students. Manufacturers and dealers are encouraged to bring the teachers and students to their facility for hands-on experiences beginning this fall. This supports long-term relationship building with the teachers and the students and develops a sustainable grassroots effort to increase the number of qualified service technicians and technologists entering the workforce.

“We are thrilled to be contributing to the C.A.S.E. scholarship program for a second year,” said Kim Rominger, president & CEO of Equipment Dealers Association. “We are looking forward to facilitating relationships between the teachers and equipment dealers near their schools. It is my hope that building these relationships results in higher student interest in the ag equipment industry and provides dealers a pipeline of local, prospective future employees.”

C.A.S.E. is a multi-year approach to agriscience education with rigorous educator training requirements and hands-on, inquiry focused learning activities for students. While C.A.S.E. currently offers ten courses, the Agricultural Power and Technology (APT) and Mechanical Systems in Agriculture (MSA) prepare students for the wide array of career opportunities in agricultural engineering. Students are immersed in inquiry-based exercises that emphasize the math and science of agricultural mechanics and engineering.

During the C.A.S.E. Institute, teachers will spend 80 hours working through nearly every lesson in the yearlong curriculum and learning how to deliver lessons in an inquiry-based way that will shift focus in the classroom from teacher-led to student-directed learning.