The EDC conducts strategic planning each year to set priority issues and focus the work of its committees and staff. The information we get from local businesses is imperative in our planning process. For the last three years we have had as one of our priorities, efforts to recruit, retain and train workforce for the area. We have worked on that goal in many ways, including the creation of a video to show the fun, food and other amenities available in our area. The video is available to businesses to place on their websites and send to potential recruits as a way to entice them to this fun and beautiful community in addition to the job possibilities they offer.
Other tasks include partnering with the education systems to provide industry-focused training. For instance, we work closely with Ridgewater College programs, such as Customized Training and Continuing Education, Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES) and its agriculture education programs.
Starting in October 2019, EDC staff met with a focus group led by Kathy Schwantes of the University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Center (MCROC) to plan for enhanced local offerings of poultry training programs. The focus group includes representatives of the EDC, University of Minnesota (U of M) College of Veterinary Medicine, Ridgewater College and MCROC. Also involved are Kandiyohi County and the City of Willmar. Planning meetings were conducted to include poultry businesses from the area to get their input on what training is desired and how it will assist them in securing the workers they need.
The collaborative group has moved quickly and has been able to secure programming for the fall quarter of 2020 and beyond. Tim Johnson of U of M Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences explains the new programs:
Ridgewater College and the U of M are partnering to develop stackable poultry training programs, catered to both aspiring students and current industry professionals.
The goals of these programs are to:
- provide multiple levels of education, from bottom to top, that help a person climb the ladder and—as a result—enhance their education.
- enhance the existing workforce in west-central Minnesota and help companies recruit and retain employees.
- provide educational opportunities for people who would otherwise not have access to them. To that end, most of the educational opportunities will be available completely online.
The U of M is offering three online courses this fall covering microbes (bacteria and viruses), food safety and biosecurity. Anyone can take these courses, even if they are not enrolled currently at the U of M. These courses fit into multiple programs that will be rolled out in 2021, including a minor in Poultry for students seeking a bachelor’s degree at U of M; a poultry health certificate for students already possessing a B.S. degree; and a Master of Science degree in Applied Poultry Science. Again, all of the courses being developed around these programs will be made available online, and students can also take these courses “a la carte” from a menu of options.
Lyndsay Ampe, Agriculture Instructor at Ridgewater College has this to say about the new programs:
Ridgewater is excited to be offering a Poultry Management Certificate program this fall! The award-winning Ag Department has been working closely with the University of Minnesota Extension and the EDC for the last two years to develop a plan to fulfill a need in our community and ultimately individuals and business from all over. With the ability to receive an education completely online, or in person at an affordable price is an incredible opportunity for all interested in poultry, both on a small personal scale, or a large commercial scale. We are providing education for your life!
The EDC is excited to see the results of the collaborative and visionary working group. Our thanks to all who assisted in making the new programs possible, including the planning committee, City of Willmar, Kandiyohi County and Willmar area poultry industry partners.