AEM leads new effort to increase high school courses tied to equipment industry

Students try their hand at operating equipment at Tri-Cities Construction Career Day 2013. Credit: Kai-Huei Yau/Tri-City Herald

The  Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) ag sector board is leading a new effort to increase the number of classes taught in high school to foster greater awareness of the equipment manufacturing industry – as well as spark enthusiasm for it in the next generation of workers.

With help from the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA), the two organizations have awarded 32 educators from 15 states partial scholarships for certification in equipment courses starting this summer. The courses, offered through the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE), will qualify teachers to begin teaching the courses this coming fall and reaching over 2200 students in the 2018-2019 school year.

“By leading a teacher scholarship program in partnership with Equipment Dealers Association, we have a great opportunity to help make students more aware of and excited about the opportunities on the equipment side of the Ag industry,” says Curt Blades, AEM’s senior vice president of Ag Services. “AEM is fully committed to workforce development and we are proud to help provide 32 teachers the training that will help them fully engage their students in the opportunities available in agriculture.”

Boosting the number of teachers for equipment-related courses

Since the launch of the CASE curriculum, more than 2,500 teachers have achieved certification to teach its classes. However, only about 90 of those certifications are in equipment-specific courses. AEM and EDA say they hope to increase that number through this scholarship program.

“Since its inception, EDA’s Foundation, the Equipment Dealers Foundation, has provided scholarships for students looking to begin or further a career in Ag,” says Joe Dykes, VP of industry relations for EDA.

“Now we are thrilled for the opportunity to partner with AEM and CASE to promote the value of an agricultural education from the other side of the classroom. Sponsoring scholarships for teachers is consistent with one of the Foundation’s most important goals, workforce development. The specific programs we’re sponsoring are aimed at closing the skills gap, or the gap between supply and demand for equipment technicians – a major issue in our industry right now. We believe working together to get people excited to teach and learn about agriculture is the best way to grow and sustain interest in our industry.”

Bridging ag equipment and construction industries

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

To emphasize local workforce development, AEM and EDA members located near the scholarship recipients have an opportunity to connect directly with the teacher and their students, the groups say.

Manufacturers and dealers are encouraged to bring the teacher and students to their facility for hands-on experiences beginning this fall. This supports long-term relationship building with the teacher and the students and develops a sustainable grassroots effort to increase the number of qualified service technicians and technologists entering the workforce.

“We expect agriculture teachers to be ‘jacks-of-all-trades’ as they must teach a variety of agricultural, natural resources, and mechanic related subjects while enhancing core-academic disciplines, such as science and mathematics,” says Miranda Chaplin, CASE Operations and outreach director.

“However, agriculture teachers often have minimal training in how to teach mechanics related content and skills. Funding provided by AEM and EDA is essential for teachers to gain cutting-edge professional development experiences with CASE to enhance their teaching practices in order to implement STEM-based agricultural mechanics courses. The long-term impact of this support will benefit and spark interest in thousands of high school agriculture students.”

CASE is a multi-year approach to agriscience education with rigorous educator training requirements and hands-on, inquiry focused learning activities for students. While CASE 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 in the math and science of agricultural mechanics and engineering.

During the CASE 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.

How you can help

Organizations wishing to contribute or match the teacher scholarship, which currently covers about half of the teacher’s total certification expenses, should contact Brian Voss with AEM at 414-298-4108.