Pennsylvania's agricultural economy requires a workforce trained in the technical skills needed to manage complexities of farm equipment and agricultural markets, according to a new report that examines the state's agriculture education programs.
Approximately 18,000 Pennsylvania youth are engaged in 183 approved secondary agricultural education programs and 21 programs that are operated by local schools or school districts, according to the report, which was compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
"Agriculture is an industry that increasingly requires the high-level skills and readiness demanded by so many other fields in our global workforce," said Gerald L. Zahorchak, the state's education secretary.
One in seven jobs in Pennsylvania is related to agriculture, including farm equipment dealers, farm suppliers and others.
The report calls for more research to evaluate how to improve retention and training of agriculture teachers. Of the 254 agricultural education teachers, 51 percent have less than 10 years experience, while 31 percent have 20 or more years of experience.
The Pennsylvania Association for Agricultural Educators is identified in the report as a key part of the agricultural education curriculum that helps students to develop necessary skills. The FFA is a leading career and technical student organization in Pennsylvania, supporting nearly 8,000 members.