Assiniboine Community College (ACC) has introduced a tuition-free farm equipment operator course for Indigenous people living off-reserve.
The post-secondary institution says the program is sponsored by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, and was developed in response to a labour shortage in the agriculture sector.
“This partnership is an important step in helping to meet an industry need and in providing learners, who may otherwise not have had the opportunity, with a chance to enrol in a program that offers a gateway to great job potential,” said Kevin Poririer, dean of school of trades at ACC, in a news release.
The 14-week program will teach students about the agriculture industry, farm safety, and how to operate and maintain various farm machinery.
“We’ve heard for a number of years that grain and oilseed producers, in particular, have a hard time finding people who are trained to work on what are significantly larger and more expensive pieces of equipment year-over-year,” said Gerald Cathcart, ACC’s community development strategist.
“(There have been) lots of retirements in the ag industry, and what we’re hoping to do here is train people to take up some of those positions that have been lost to retirement.”
Cathcart added the program has actually been in development for several years with assistance from Manitoba’s largest farm lobby group, Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP).
“Producers across Manitoba are facing serious labour challenges and struggle to hire employees with the necessary skills to work on a farm,” said KAP president Bill Campbell in a press release.
“KAP was pleased to help develop the program and provide industry input to align with the curriculum.”
Cathcart says there will be no entrance exams, but potential students will be screened so they understand what they’re getting into.
“And that’ll be talking about the industry; people need to know that in harvest you’re going to be working 14, 16 hours a day. When the sun is shining you’ll be working” Cathcart said.
Cathcart adds they expect the course to fill up quickly.
It has room for 15 students and will be getting underway in February, 2022, at the North Hill campus in Brandon.