Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Innovative agriculture partnerships at Sask Polytech

The program provides training which can lead to rewarding careers in the growing business of servicing modern farm equipment

At Saskatchewan Polytechnic we understand that farmers and their families are the heartbeat of every rural community across the province. These relationships are important. Building off of farming culture, Sask Polytech’s Agricultural Equipment Technician (AET) faculty recognize the value of relationship building and have incorporated these community values into their programming.

“We have been building relationships with agriculture equipment dealers since the 1960s,” says AET program head Chris Thomson. “We were the first post-secondary institution in Canada to collaborate with a dealership network to create specific curriculum for their equipment, which resulted in the John Deere tech apprenticeship program in 1992. This is a world-class program known across Canada for its high-quality graduates and accounts for half of our apprentices.”

Agricultural equipment technicians play an important role in Western Canada’s ag sector by ensuring the tractors, combines, precision seeding equipment, sprayers and other equipment farmers use remain in excellent condition.

Sask Polytech’s AET training has always held a high reputation among dealerships and industry professionals. Sask Polytech was recently added to the CNH Industrial Top Tech list. CNH Industrial and its dealer network selected a number of post-secondary institutions to be part of the Top Tech program. These programs are reviewed for the content of their curriculum and provide training on the latest Case, New Holland and CASE Construction equipment.

Sask Polytech is also working with Kubota Canada and AGCO Fendt to add specific technical training for their technicians.

“Kubota has been a strong supporter of Sask Polytech,” says Danny Lambe,product support manager at Kubota Canada. “The last four years we have been striving to supply Sask Polytech with Kubota engines and diagnostic software so students and apprentices can learn using the latest Kubota technology.”

Our dealer network has a strong working relationship with Sask Polytech and we hope to see a Kubota-specific training program with them in the future.

Danny Lambe,Kubota

High school credit courses

Sask Polytech’s partnerships also include SGI CANADA, to train staff on how ag equipment works, and Ag in Motion, where the AET program donates equipment for use at Discovery Farm Langham.  Sask Polytech also has partnerships to encourage more high school students to pursue an agriculture career.

“Since 2018 we have been working with the Canada Equipment Dealers Foundation, Sun West School Division and the Western Equipment Dealers Association to develop high school credit courses that showcase what an ag career at a dealership could look like,” says Thomson. “Each year the AET program hosts an agricultural boot camp to let students experience what a career in ag has to offer.”

Industry and the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission (SATCC) recognize the Sask Polytech AET program for its exceptional training.

“In 2021 the SATCC recognized our faculty for their hard work and achievement with the Outstanding Technical Training Team award. I’m so proud of our faculty, students and apprentices. We are incredibly hard workers making a difference in the agriculture field every day,” adds Thomson.

“The SATCC was pleased to present the Outstanding Technical Training Team Award to Sask Polytech’s Agricultural Equipment Technician staff in 2021,” says Evan Jamieson, SATCC director of Program Development. “The team’s strong relationship with industry is impressive. We know they keep equipment and course materials relevant with the advances in technology that are happening in the field. They promote the skilled trades to youth, they’re innovative, available when we need them, and as a result, very deserving of this recognition.”

Training women for successful careers

“I don’t know what else I would do if I didn’t become an agricultural equipment technician,” says Emily Messner, Sask Polytech AET instructor. “I grew up on a grain and cattle farm and was always interested in agriculture. My family was really supportive. One of my brothers completed the AET apprenticeship program before I started my training.”

But friends and family are not always supportive of women in the trades. “At first, my friends thought I was crazy for wanting to become an agricultural equipment technician,” says AET apprentice Ellen Dahlman. “I’ve always helped with harvest and cattle on my family farm, I’m excited for my career in agriculture.”

Both Messner and Dahlman studied at Sask Polytech. Messner started her education in Sask Polytech’s AET certificate program. She was then hired on as an apprentice at the Cervus Equipment John Deere Dealer in Melfort and received her journeyperson ticket in 2019. She started teaching at Sask Polytech in November 2021. Dahlman is completing her apprenticeship with the E. Bourassa & Sons New Holland Dealership in Assiniboia.

Both Messner and Dahlman enjoy the hands-on approach to working as agricultural equipment technicians and are excited to see more women entering this trade.

Dahlman is the only female technician at her dealership, but points out that everyone at work is supportive. “The guys I work with treat me well,” she says. “We help each other out. They give me a hand if I need a hand. I’m kind of small so I fit in the spaces where they can’t to reach or fix things.”

“It’s exciting to see things are changing for women in agriculture,” says AET program head Chris Thomson. “We are seeing more women training to become agricultural equipment technicians through Sask Polytech. We hope to see the trend continue as more female AET students and apprentices enter the program.”

Messner is Sask Polytech’s only female AET instructor. She says the new male AET apprentices are usually a bit surprised, but they recover from their shock quickly. The female AET apprentices are appreciative to have a female role model.

“My advice for female students is to stick it out. Sometimes the guys don’t want to accept you right away, but it will get easier, and you’ll be happy you have a career in the trades.”

AET instructor Emily

Above: Emily Messner, Sask Polytech AET instructor

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This article was originally published by The Western Producer. The Western Producer is the leading agricultural publication targeted for Western Canadian farmers and ranchers and has been a staple in the agricultural industry since 1923.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic is signatory to the SDG Accord. Sustainable Development Goal alignment is one of the ways Sask Polytech is leading the rise of polytechnic education.

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Published Oct 2022.