WSCC, MSU sign ag education agreement.

June 27, 2016
From left: Christy Christmas, WSCC dean; trustees Bruce Smith and Jim Jensen; Dr. Randy Showerman, MSU; Dr. Kenneth Urban, WSCC; Chrystal Young, WSCC.

From left: Christy Christmas, WSCC dean; trustees Bruce Smith and Jim Jensen; Dr. Randy Showerman, MSU; Dr. Kenneth Urban, WSCC; Chrystal Young, WSCC.

#OceanaCountyNews #WestShoreCommunityCollege #OceanaAgriculture

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

VICTORY TOWNSHIP, Mason County — Today, West Shore Community College entered into a formal agreement with Michigan State University 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 Michigan State’s Institute of Agricultural Technology while working toward an associate degree from WSCC. Every credit earned will transfer to Michigan State for students who are seeking a four-year degree.

Dr. Randy Showerman of MSU signs the agreement while WSCC President Kenneth Urban watches.

Dr. Randy Showerman of MSU signs the agreement while WSCC President Kenneth Urban watches.

“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, president of WSCC. “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.”

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, said Christy Christmas, dean of occupational programs.

“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,” Christmas said adding that 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.”

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.

Showerman said students interested in enrolling in the program need to contact the MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology. Enrollment takes place directly through the IAT not MSU’s normal enrollment process.

Jim Jensen, chairman of WSCC’s Board of Trustees said he is looking forward to the new partnership. 

“We believe strongly in partnerships and this one focuses on agriculture and new technology in that industry,” Jensen said. “I’ve been involved in agriculture for over 50 years and have watched these changes and the challenges of hiring people to utilize the new technologies. I am very excited about this and look forward to the new programs and look forward to the students coming on campus and learning about agriculture.”

Riverton Township farmer Bob Thurow, who attended the agreement signing ceremony, said the industry is in need of people, especially young people, who are willing to invest in their education and learn about the technological advancements in agriculture.


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