The president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau says there is a need in all areas of agriculture for highly-trained technical workers. Steve Nelson says it’s vital the state has an adequate workforce at all levels of agriculture.
“One of the places that we’ve really been lacking is in technical training,” Nelson says, “not only as it might relate to traditional agriculture but certainly as we look at the new technologies that are out there that farmers and ranchers are using every day.”
Nelson says career and technical education as well as post-high school job training and re-training are essential for the economic viability of rural communities. He’s concerned the recent economic downturn in the ag economy will prompt more young people to leave farms and ranches.
“That positive talk about agriculture that was there a few years ago is waning,” Nelson says. “I’ve been concerned for a long time that as we cycle like we are today that the thinking will be that it’s less attractive to be in agriculture.”
He says there’s a great opportunity for young people to stay in agriculture if technical training opportunities can be improved.
Nelson says, “A lot of these technical fields that we’re talking about, the opportunity may even be greater now than it’s ever been because of the support that farms and ranches need to be competitive and to be sustainable in this type of market setting, where margins are very close.”
The U-S House Committee on Education and the Workforce has already approved legislation, called The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. Backers say it will help more individuals gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed by: empowering state and local community leaders, improving alignment with in-demand jobs, increasing transparency and accountability and ensuring a limited federal role.
Nelson is hoping the full House will take it up when members return from their summer recess after Labor Day.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX