Education Spotlight: Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture

NCTA campusWide-open plains, larger-than-life sunsets, and herds of livestock are all part of the portrait of Curtis, Nebraska. Head out to this small southeastern Nebraska city, known for both their strong focus on agriculture and their spectacular Easter Sunday pageant—Curtis calls itself “The Easter City of Nebraska”—and you’ll see why it’s such a perfect location for the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

NCTA is one of two community colleges in the nation (the other one is in Ohio) focused entirely on agriculture. And though it’s part of the University of Nebraska institutional system, the college is relatively small, enrolling an average of around 300 people per year.

NCTA has also spent the last decade turning over a new leaf. While they’ll still be focused on training farmers and ranchers, the school has incorporated a wider scope into their programs to include business, manufacturing, and more. “Many students who attend NCTA have a rural background or an interest in agriculture,” says Dr. Douglas Smith, agriculture production systems division chair to FarmFlavor. “Some students do wish to own their own operation, so we have incorporated entrepreneurship or business-minded principles across our curriculum. When students leave NCTA, they are ready to enter the industry as managers and stewards of land and livestock. Many become partners in operations and future owners.”

In other words, the stereotypes about agricultural careers are just as old and dusty as the assumption that all manufacturing work is done on an assembly line in a dark, dank factory. Ag careers can run the gamut from highly technical equipment operation jobs to irrigation technicians, mechanists, or even agricultural chemical specialists. In fact, agricultural technical careers are more diverse than ever before, thanks to new inventions and mechanical requirements for both large and small-scale farms.

This Thursday, the school will celebrate the kickoff of a new initiative between the Central Valley Ag Cooperative, Reinke Manufacturing Inc., and NCTA. They plan to help begin preparation for future technical ag success at an even younger age. On September 3, York High School will begin offering dual credit agricultural training programs focused on career readiness and agricultural workforce training.

According to the York News-Times, the public is invited to the kickoff at 1:00 p.m. in the York High School Theater at 1005 Duke Drive. The keynote speaker will be Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, a vocal supporter of the cutting-edge program. “Nebraska agriculture has strong demand for skilled employees in technical, industry-specific jobs,” said Gov. Ricketts. “This ‘Ag Track’ program can launch career-ready workers upon high school graduation.”

The dual credit program will allow high school students to receive NCTA certificates in diversified agriculture, as irrigation technicians, or even certified agricultural chemical applicators. With this education, students can graduate high school with the skills necessary for an immediate career.

Preparing both high school and college-age students, as well as adult learners, for a complex and dynamic field, NCTA is certainly a valuable resource to have in the state of Nebraska. It’s simply the peak of agricultural, technical education. To learn more about the college or schedule a visit to the campus, check out their website here!

Photo credit: NCTA