Columbia Basin College Awarded USDA NIFA HSI Educational Grant in Collaboration with Washington State University
Posted Date: January 6, 2020
Columbia Basin College
By: Anna Tensmeyer
Throughout the region, agricultural and food scientists and technicians are in high demand. Currently, there are approximately 292 full- and part-time jobs throughout the service area. In 2018, an average of 78 agricultural and food scientists and technicians were hired per month throughout the service area. Unfortunately, CBC’s Ag Program, one of the primary feeder programs for WSU’s College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, has been experiencing low enrollment, particularly of Hispanic students. This low enrollment is primarily attributed to negative stereotypes surrounding the agricultural industry, particularly for the region’s migrant populations. Adams and Franklin Counties are Hispanic majority communities, with 63% and 53% Hispanic populations, respectively. Unfortunately, these migrant communities often view agriculture as a low income career. At a career fair, one Hispanic mother told CBC staff, “Agriculture – that’s just picking apples. Why would I want my child to do that?” To provide agricultural industries with a new generation of individuals capable of meeting their workforce needs, we need to educate students, parents, and teachers on the career opportunities available and provide hands-on educational experiences that will help undo the negative stereotypes surrounding agricultural careers.
Our main goal was to meet the regional workforce demand for skilled agricultural and food scientists and technicians by (1) combating negative stereotypes and introducing high school and undergraduate students to the variety of career opportunities available in food, agriculture, natural resources and human sciences (FANH) sciences; (2) providing agricultural research internships opportunities for undergraduate students; (3) providing mentoring opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing FANH degrees; and (4) improving the quality of post-secondary FANH instruction through interdisciplinary professional development faculty workshop. This project is anticipated to benefit at least 600 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students located throughout southeastern Washington with an emphasis on Hispanic students and 40-60 STEM faculty. Outreach activities and hands-on learning experiences will positively impact student/parent knowledge of the FANH sciences and motivate students to pursue higher education in FANH fields. Research internships and mentoring opportunities will increase student retention and soft skills. Interdisciplinary faculty professional development workshops will increase collaboration between FANH and STEM faculty and expose STEM faculty to the FANH career opportunities. The overall project impact will be to increase the number and diversity of students pursuing post-secondary agricultural education. At the end of the project, enrollment in CBC’s Agricultural Program is anticipated to increase by at least 50%, and the percent of Hispanic students enrolled is projected to increase by 5%, providing agricultural industries with a diverse, new generation of individuals capable of meeting their workforce needs.