A new scholarship fund will help students complete training in agriculture and business while providing Federated Co-operatives Ltd. with access to post-secondary graduates.
Each student will receive $2,000 in August and January and $1,000 in May, paid summer internships and employment opportunities with FCL after graduation that include a signing bonus.
A total of $20,000 is available over four years through the Excellence in Ag Program.
For scholarship recipient Rachael Verwey of Portage La Prairie, Man., the program offers job security after she completes her agriculture degree at the University of Manitoba.
“That really benefits me to know where I’m going with it. I have my career set up for me,” she said.
She hopes to become an agronomist but said the training and work experience at retail co-ops will also benefit her if she chooses to farm.
Her family operates a diverse farm, milking 100 dairy cows, raising 350 head of beef cattle and growing potatoes and grain on 6,000 acres.
Recipient Rebecca Joseph of Chipman, Alta., also grew up with livestock but had little exposure to grain until she worked at the co-op for the last three summers.
She completed a diploma in animal science technology at Lakeland College and is now studying ag business at the University of Lethbridge.
“Co-op gave me exposure to crops and business and piqued my interest,” said Joseph, who hopes to work with crop inputs at FCL.
“I will definitely stay with them as long as the jobs are there,” she said.
Joseph has already received about $40,000 in scholarships through other ag-related programs, but the co-op award represents the largest single one received to date.
Ron Healy, FCL associate vice-president for ag and home products, said the program allows students to apply knowledge learned in the classroom on the job.
Healy expects that the scholarship program, which attracted 28 applicants this year, will continue.
“Like others in the ag sector, we are struggling to find really good people and see this as a long-term solution to address that,” he said.
The four students selected also include Dana Riley of Rosetown, Sask., and Tylene Rafa of Seven Persons, Alta.
Applicants were required to write an essay, provide recommendations and participate in interviews. The next application deadline is Jan. 31.
FCL and the co-op retailing system have 2,500 locations in Western Canada and northwestern Ontario.