Back in 2014, we covered the announcement when local manufacturer Reinke Manufacturing (you can read more here) decided to partner with the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. The goal? To speed up the pipeline of irrigation technicians, of which there was a major shortage in the industry.
Now, students at NCTA can pursue the Reinke Irrigation Technician Concentration, and as the Midwest Producer reports, they’re certainly doing so. Nebraska has the most irrigated cropland in the entire country, with more than 8.5 million acres irrigated by groundwater and surface applications. “Outputs from American agriculture have more than doubled in the past half-century while inputs have remained relatively constant,” NCTA Dean Ron Rosati tells the Producer. “The center pivot irrigation system is one of the key technologies responsible for this significantly improved agricultural productivity.”
These days, the field (so to speak…) is wide open for students interested in learning how to maintain, fix, and install the irrigation systems that keep Nebraska’s crop land watered. Irrigation technicians could also work in parks, facilities, and hotel grounds. There can be serious consequences if an irrigation technician doesn’t know how to do their job properly. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 70-80% of all plant problems are related to incorrect watering: “The scope of a project for an irrigation professional can be as small as developing a sprinkler system for a private home, or as large as routing water to an entire field in dry climates or during periods of little rainfall. No matter the project size, irrigation professionals play an important role in satisfying the thirst of the earth.”
While irrigation technician positions don’t always require a degree or a certificate, experts usually agree that the certificate gives applicants a step up when applying for jobs. Full-time, year-round positions can pay anywhere from $21,000 to $130,000 a year. If you’re interested in statistics about the industry, you can learn more here.
The irrigation technician package that Reinke and NCTA have come up with is competitive for the industry. Reinke donated a new pivot at NCTA, and continues to provide the program with class materials, supplies, and teaching models: “Since I started here last fall at NCTA we have acquired steel and resources for the welding program from Reinke, and now we have this mini-pivot to work with in the mechanics laboratory,” agriculture mechanics instructor Dan Stehlik told the Producer. “It is a great learning experience for the students,” Stehlik said. “The uniqueness of this pivot will allow us to conduct activities year-round and with an element of safety since it’s not as tall as a regular pivot, but we’ll still provide all the learning for the basic wiring components found on a typical pivot and see if they work as the pivot travels its half-circle pattern.”
Few companies have stepped up like Reinke to actually provide tools for colleges, making the educational partnership a truly tangible one. By taking the 34-credit Irrigation Technician program, the college ensures that students will obtain their stated goal: foundational knowledge in electricity and mechanized irrigation services in order to safely service, repair, troubleshoot, and install center-pivot systems, which is an invaluable skill here in Nebraska.
If you’re interested in the Irrigation Technician concentration (or any other of NCTA’s specialty technology and agriculture programs, found here), be sure to reach out to the application staff of NCTA to find out more information about tuition remission, scholarships, future job prospects, or any other questions you might have.
We are lucky to have such a tremendous resource for a burgeoning job area in our state! Thanks to Reinke Manufacturing for supporting the community and making such a huge investment in the future workforce of Nebraska.