New agricultural workforce and technology program leads Silicon Valley into the future

A new initiative promises to bring the San Joaquin Valley agricultural industry into the future, with creative and innovative advancements in agricultural technology, engineering, and workforce training and education.
A $15 million investment from the state, provided by senators. Anna Caballero will help fund the new Agri-Food Technology and Engineering Partnership (AgTEC). Led by the Central Valley Community Foundation, AgTEC will harness the power of community colleges across the Valley—with contributions from smallholder farmers and multinational corporations—to revolutionize the way agricultural workers learn the skills they need to pursue rewarding careers in the industry.
The program’s goals were announced in September. Included in a June 6 press conference on the Merced College campus is the training and upskilling of 8,400 job-ready workers over four years, a 60 percent increase in wages for agricultural workers, and a total investment of $5,000 in workforce development. Ten thousand U.S. dollars.
“The San Joaquin Valley is one of the largest food producers in the world, yet our communities continue to struggle with poverty and unemployment,” said Caballero (D-Merced).

“AgTEC provides innovation, education and training that will lead to better-paying jobs and a more dynamic industry in our region.”
The AgTEC program is part of the Fresno-Merced Food Future (F3) innovation program, led by CVCF to fund a valley-wide climate-smart agri-food technology and engineering cluster with a focus on digitization and data Integration of science, mechatronics, equipment and systems testing and agri-food applications. The program is a collaborative workforce education program between seven regional colleges, including Merced, Ridley, Madera, Fresno, Clovis, West Hills, Lemoore and Coringa, and Red Fir College.
F3 is designed to drive economic growth and equity, foster inclusive innovation and commercialization, while creating a seamless pipeline of talent development and local market growth for small farms and the food industry.
Last week, the F3 initiative received $65 million in funding through the U.S. Economic Development Agency’s Build Back Better Regions Challenge. As part of this grant, Merced College will receive more than $27 million to serve as program leader for the AgTEC workforce program, which will include a new agricultural technology innovation center.
“The challenges facing the Central Valley can only be addressed through partnership and collaboration, with underresourced communities mobilizing to forge new paths for civic renewal, inclusion and change,” said Ashley Swearengin, CEO of CVCF. “More than economic development, This is a story of integrating the collective impact of our partners in industry, education and government to create a better future for our region.”
Merced College, along with seven other community colleges and worker representatives, will develop a new comprehensive approach to agricultural technician education to ensure a long-term sustainable and equitable workforce pipeline. The result will be open access to a joint regional training program with the ability to double the annual workforce pipeline.
The new training will incorporate competency-based education (CBE) — which awards credits that demonstrate required competencies, rather than mandating redundant traditional courses — leading to a regionally, industry-recognized “Applied Agricultural Systems Certificate” with stackable credentials “.
Chancellor Chris Vitelli said Merced College was honoured to receive this grant, which will support the AgTEC component of all colleges as part of the F3 programme, because of its long track record of supporting agriculture through industry partnerships and the innovation, support it provides Sexuality training and education to local students.
The AgTEC launch took place just outside the College’s new Raj Kahlon Agricultural and Industrial Technology Complex, a state-of-the-art 29,000-square-foot facility that will provide innovative space for collaboration between a variety of related disciplines. The ribbon cutting for the building is scheduled for noon on Thursday, September 4. 15.
“At Merced College, we are always looking to the future and envisioning new and innovative ways to serve and support our students, while also contributing to the success and growth of our region,” Vitelli said. “We couldn’t be more proud or excited to be part of the AgTEC program and to provide this incredible new facility to benefit our students, educators and industry partners.”

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