Western Growers (WG) has bolstered its workforce development efforts with the launch of five initiatives aimed at transitioning the agriculture workforce to master rapidly developing agricultural technology. The initiatives make up WG’s Agtech Workforce Readiness Campaign, which was announced last night at AgTechX Ed at Reedley College.
“We need agtech startups and technology experts to help us automate key functions such as harvesting, weeding and thinning,” said Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia. “As their innovations come forward, we will need trained and creative people to work on our farms and in our facilities who are adept in everything from agriculture and agronomy to data analytics and technology integration. These initiatives are designed to make sure we get there on time.”
WG started its agtech workforce development focus in 2016 with the launch of Careers in Ag – a career pathways program. However, with the rapid development of innovative agtech solutions in the past few years, WG has ramped up its efforts to meet the growing demand for workers with a different type of skill set.
The WG Agtech Workforce Readiness Campaign include the following initiatives:
- AgTechX Ed: A statewide initiative aimed at developing a future workforce with the skills and knowledge to navigate emerging on-farm technology.
- NextGen Curriculum Development: A project that will address the need for agriculture worker education by developing a curriculum that can be leveraged across campuses in the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems to provide the training needed for agtech expertise for the next-gen agricultural workforce.
- Junior AgSharks: Students from middle and high schools in rural areas are invited to serve as AgSharks, where they listen to pitches from agtech startups and vet their technologies as well as learn about the latest technologies by interacting with leaders in the agriculture industry and venture capitalist space.
- Home for the Holidays: An annual professional mixer where college students are invited to an exclusive meet-and-greet with agriculture industry leaders and technology companies.
- Careers in Ag: A career pathways program encourages college students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers within the agricultural industry.
“The Careers in Ag Program reinforced my desire to work in the ag industry,” said Anahi Huerta, one of 250 students who have participated in the Careers in Ag Program. “During the program, I was exposed to the variety of careers available in ag. When I graduated UC Davis, I was offered a position at a farm in California’s Coachella Valley and have been able to apply my managerial economics degree to my current role as food safety coordinator.”
To accompany the initiatives, WG also rolled out the Agtech Workforce Readiness Campaign website today: www.agtechworkforce.com.
The website is a one-stop-shop where stakeholders can find information about WG’s initiatives; watch videos and read articles about students who are already making a difference in the workforce; hear directly from farmers about workforce needs; and join the cause.