The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced today that South Central College is being awarded a $499,657 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grant.

The AFRI grant will be used to implement a new Advanced Ag Technology (AAT) certificate program.  Students can begin enrolling in AAT courses for the fall 2020 semester, which starts in August.

The college plans to have the full AAT certificate program available for the 2021 spring semester in January.

South Central President Annette Parker says, "South Central crreated the AAT certificate to respond to the increasing technological needs of the agribusiness industry.  This new program will allow SCC to prepare students for rewarding careers in this high-tech field."

The grant runs for three years.  SCC plans to deliver the entire AAT certificate program to 75 post-secondary students.  The college is also partnering with area high schools to offer one of the certificate's courses to 225 high school students through concurrent enrollment.

A SCC News Release quotes mechatronics instructor and AAT project lead Doug Laven, "Today's advanced agricultural equipment utilizes increasingly sophisticated automation requiring more qualified technicians.  These technicians need knowledge and specialized skills to install, calibrate, and service electronics, fluid power, geographic information systems (GIS), automation systems, soil and chemical monitors, and grain storage equipment."

"The new AAT Certificate program will be build based on SCC's successful iMEC model for offering hands-on mechatronics instruction to remote locations, which began in 2009 with funding by the National Science Foundation."

The program will combine agriculture and mechatronics curriculum in order to establish an industry-ready, advanced agricultural workforce and expand career pathways for graduates.  It will be accessible to post-secondary and high school students, Veterans, and current Agribusiness employees who want to advance their careers."