Registered apprenticeships to provide new earn-while-you-learn STEM training for 1,000 Agriculture Equipment Service Technicians by 2027

Harrisburg, PA – Wolf administration officials today introduced a new apprenticeship program to prepare Agriculture Equipment Service Technicians for ‘Jobs that Pay’ by developing hands-on skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Pennsylvania will face more than 1,000 job openings as current Farm Equipment Mechanics and Service Technicians retire by 2027.

“This apprenticeship program exemplifies Governor Tom Wolf’s commitment to providing career pathways to prepare students for STEM careers that pay,” said Agriculture Executive Deputy Secretary Michael Smith. “As Pennsylvania’s leading economic driver, agriculture offers a full range of meaningful careers. The Agriculture Equipment Service Technician apprenticeship program gives young people the opportunity to earn while they learn in their own communities.”

Roughly 997 farm equipment mechanics and service technicians currently work in Pennsylvania, but many of these skilled workers are expected to retire during the next decade. The Agriculture Equipment Service Technician apprenticeship was developed to train more than 1,000 Pennsylvanians to repair and maintain electronics, global positioning and information systems, and other emerging technologies.

“The Agriculture Equipment Service Technician apprenticeship was created to fill a workforce need identified by local businesses,” said Department of Labor & Industry’s Deputy Secretary for Workforce Development Eileen Cipriani. “The apprenticeship program is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and will be used as a pilot program for other states experiencing a shortage of well-trained agriculture, industrial and outdoor power equipment technicians.”

The Northeast Equipment Dealers’ Association will sponsor the program, which will require at least one year to complete. Five regional equipment companies – original equipment manufacturer New Holland Agriculture, and equipment dealers Binkley & Hurst, Deer Country Farm & Lawn, Hoober Inc., and Messick’s Farm Equipment – have agreed to hire and provide mentors to train the apprentices. The mentors ensure that the classroom training is applied on the job.

Apprentices will earn pay increases as they pass learning milestones outlined in the program, which requires 400 hours of classroom instruction and approximately 4,000 hours of on-the-job training. As a competency-based program, student must demonstrate their mastery of skills ranging from interpersonal communication and critical thinking to material fabrication and welding, engine and machinery systems.

Apprentices who successfully complete the program will receive U.S. Department of Labor certification as a journey person, without the time and debt of a formal college education. Registered apprenticeships offer a diverse group of non-traditional students a framework for hands-on learning in high-demand sectors of the economy. Apprentice programs open up new access for women, minorities, and military veterans who might not have considered these opportunities in the past.

The program also includes a pre-apprenticeship option for students enrolled in FFA’s agriculture education programs that offer agriculture mechanics and supervised agriculture experience programs. High school students in these programs may request credit to be applied to the classroom and on-the-job training portion of the apprenticeship.

The Steinman Foundation provided seed money for development of the apprenticeship program, and the Conservation Foundation of Lancaster County will provide fiduciary services.

Going forward, supporters hope to expand the program to areas of the state. In addition to establishing entry points on the lower end of the career pathway, developers hope to collaborate with post-secondary institutions to create certificate and degree programs for agricultural engineering.

Learn more about the department’s work to support the agriculture industry at agriculture.pa.gov.

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