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State unveils new farm apprenticeship program

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Pennsylvania will face as many as 1,000 job openings over the next 10 years as current farm equipment mechanics and service technicians retire.

To prepare, state officials this week introduced a new apprenticeship program to train future agriculture equipment service technicians.

The program will provide hands-on skills in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM and is expected to train more than 1,000 Pennsylvanians to repair and maintain electronics, global positioning and information systems and work in other emerging technologies, state officials said.

The apprenticeship program is considered a first of its kind in Pennsylvania, and will be used as a pilot program for other states also facing a shortage of well-trained agriculture, industrial and outdoor power equipment technicians, said Eileen Cipriani deputy secretary for workforce development in the state Department of Labor & Industry

The program was created to fill a workforce need identified by local businesses, added Cipriani.

Roughly 1,000 farm equipment mechanics and service technicians now work in Pennsylvania, but many of them are expected to retire during the next decade, state officials said.

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 Inc., Hoober Inc. and Messick Farm Equipment Inc. – have agreed to hire and provide mentors to train the apprentices.

The mentors ensure that the classroom training is applied on the job, state officials explained.

The program requires 400 hours of classroom instruction and some 4,000 hours of on-the-job training.

Apprentices will earn pay increases as they pass learning milestones outlined in the program.

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David O'Connor

David O'Connor

Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @DaveOC_CPBJ.

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