HARRISBURG, Pa., July 22 /-USNewswire/ -- Approximately 18,000 Pennsylvania youth are actively engaged in secondary agricultural education programs according to a new report that outlines the importance of these programs, as well as the challenges they face.
The report, which was compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture with extensive input from the state departments of Education and Labor & Industry, is available online at www.MarketplacefortheMind.com by clicking on the "Community & Local Government" tab.
"With one in seven jobs related to agriculture, it is critical that our workforce is prepared to meet the demands of these career opportunities now and in the future," said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff. "Agricultural education programs develop students' potential for career success through engaging hands-on activities and real world experiences. These educational opportunities, partnered with skilled instructors and input from the agriculture industry, help build the next generation of agriculturalists."
According to the report, Pennsylvania has 183 approved secondary agricultural education programs and 21 programs that are operated by local schools or school districts.
The report points to a survey by the Pennsylvania Association for Agricultural Educators that found 53 percent of students enrolled in agricultural education programs go directly into careers upon graduation from high school, while 47 percent continue on to post-secondary education.
The survey found that 42 percent of the students in agricultural education programs are female, mirroring current trends in production agriculture. Eighty-nine percent of secondary agriculture education students come from non-farm populations.
"Agriculture is an industry that increasingly requires the high-level skills and readiness demanded by so many other fields in our global workforce," Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak said. "We all must work together to ensure our students leave high school prepared with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in agriculture or any other career."
The survey evaluated other challenges facing agriculture education in Pennsylvania, such as the experience levels of teachers. Of the 254 agricultural education teachers, 51 percent have less than 10 years experience, while 31 percent have 20 or more years of experience. The report calls for more research to evaluate how more teachers can be persuaded not leave the field and can be provided with the support they need throughout their careers.
The report also notes that agricultural education, like other educational programs, must meet state-mandated educational requirements. It outlines further work that can be done to align state educational guidelines to meet the needs of the agricultural industry.
Zahorchak pointed to the FFA as an essential part of the agricultural education curriculum that helps students to develop necessary skills through career development events, leadership training and supervised agricultural experiences. The FFA is a leading career and technical student organization in Pennsylvania, supporting nearly 8,000 members.
Labor & Industry Secretary Sandi Vito reiterated the importance of agricultural education given its role in preserving one of the state's largest industries and employment sectors.
"Agriculture is among Pennsylvania's most important industries. It's crucial that we provide the opportunities and access necessary for the workforce to develop the skills and knowledge employers need," she added.
For more information on agricultural education, visit www.MarketplacefortheMind.com.
Chris L. Ryder