Chelsea Bladow
Chelsea Bladow
Central Lakes College and AgCentric Awarded $584,000 NSF Grant to Address Technician Workforce Gap

The National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT) is thrilled for Central Lakes Colleges and AgCentric being awarded a $584,618 National Science Foundation grant titled “Technical Applications and Agriculture” (TAA) through the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. This project will bring together community college and secondary school faculty, and industry partners to develop and implement new curriculum and professional development opportunities. The goal of this project is to build an agricultural technician program for secondary school students that focuses on skills and knowledge that are directly relevant and transferable to post-secondary education and the agricultural technician workforce.

A key partner for AgCentric’s TAA project, Northland Community and Technical College holds an NSF grant which created the National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT). As an ATE National Center, NCAT is charged with supporting outreach, community building, and collaborations between existing and new ATE projects in the same or related technology fields across the nation. Through NCAT, Northland will support the current project and provide their expertise to further the mission of ATE centers to address technician knowledge, skills, and competencies needed for the evolving, converging, and emerging technical workplace.

Not only does the project address a documented need for trained and skilled agricultural technicians across the country in both rural and urban settings, but because the project is built on a national model implemented in over 2,300 schools in 46 states, the national impact on students, teachers, and schools will be significant. The program evaluation will study the development of the post-secondary, secondary, and industry partnerships to understand the strengths and challenges of such partnerships.

NCAT will serve through the wide distribution of educational resources for curriculum, interactive content, applications and exchange of ideas for autonomous technologies across the country. As the first national ATE Center in Autonomous Technologies, NCAT is leading the crafting, adapting, and implementing of educational resources and providing a resource hub and catalyst for evidence-based research on the knowledge and skills needed in autonomous technologies for students to succeed.

“NCAT is proud to support the AgCentric, Technical Applications in Agriculture NSF ATE project, which will fill a critical gap in technician education resulting from advancing technologies in agriculture, including autonomous systems”, said Jonathan Beck, Executive Director and Principal Investigator, National Center for Autonomous Technologies (DUE #1902574). The primary partners providing high quality agriculture education on this project are AgCentric, Central Lakes College, The Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE), Northland Community and Technical College, and Ridgewater College. “Autonomous technologies are increasing efficiencies across many industries including agriculture. This investment by NSF will enhance technician education in a significant area that drives the United States economy”, said Beck. 

July 24, 2021

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