Skilled workers needed in ag industry

BARTON COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — There’s a lot of openings in the agriculture industry, and according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture – a lot of those employees don’t have the basic skills needed.

It’s all from the KDA’s workforce survey.

KSN’s Amanda Aguilar found out colleges in central Kansas are stepping up to help get future employees trained in the skills they need.

“Agribusinesses in our area have made it clear to us, that serve on our advisory board for the program, that they have a shortage of trained people and it keeps them from doing more and expanding,” said Victor Martin, an agriculture instructor at Barton County Community College.

He said he isn’t surprised by the results of KDA’s survey, but considering how important ag is to the state’s revenue – it does concern him.

“As ag goes, the state goes, and we need employees,” said Martin.

The KDA report showed that over half of the current job openings are in agriculture mechanics, agriculture business and animal science.

Barton County Community College wants to help fill those positions. It offers certificate programs that can be completed in just nine months. These programs include crop protection, crop production and agri-business.

While offering these classes are important, Martin said students still need those basic skills to succeed in the workplace as well.

“I want you to spray this field but we don’t communicate effectively and I spray the wrong field and I don’t put the right chemical on,” he explained. “All of a sudden you can’t rotate next spring to the crop you want because we didn’t communicate properly.”

The KDA report showed that many employees lacked skills such as written communication and math.

“We have a whole curriculum that we teach, within all of our programs at the college for careers, that address these needs,” said Martin.

Martin told KSN the college’s programs have helped students get jobs and succeed in the ag industry.

“We’re positioned to provide those employees to help businesses expand,” he said.

If you’d like to view the KDA’s full survey results, they can be found on their website.