Ag tech program gets equipment gift

Good training of agriculture service technicians is critical for farmers and equipment dealers, says one of those dealers, so they are taking steps to ensure it.

“Without trained service technicians we cannot run a business,” said Tim Young, owner of Young’s Equipment.

The dealership recently made an in-kind donation of $470,000 to install state-of-the-art equipment for the Saskatchewan Polytechnic agriculture equipment technician program.

“Even the world’s best equipment breaks down now and then. If you don’t have the proper training, you will not be able to fix that equipment, get the farmer up and running. And if that happens, then you’re out of business,” Young said at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Saskatoon Feb. 27.

The donation is designed to help students advance their careers and help employers hire qualified technicians.

Young’s Equipment is a long-time supporter of the school’s ag program, which Young said has helped train most of his company’s service technicians.

Over the years the company has also provided many other in-kind donations and annually sponsors five student scholarship awards.

The latest donation includes a Case IH front loader, CVT transmission, combine power take-off gearbox and core, Case IH Maxxum tractor, Case Farmall tractor and two Kubota engines.

Young said having the actual machinery parts available for training is key to helping student education.

“Probably most important are the components where you get a chance to actually take apart a CVT transmission, watch as it turns, and really get to understand the concepts behind a CVT transmission,” he said.

“It’s much different than watching a video or something that’s animated. These are real-life tools that they can use, take apart, put back together, see how they work and fine tune. And that experience is invaluable as a teaching tool.”

Chris Thomson agreed.

As head of the ag equipment program, Thomson said the donated equipment will help students shift quickly and smoothly into the world of contemporary farming equipment.

“We’ll be able to work on modern, fully electronic, brand new equipment that requires digital interface to it. So we have to have a laptop to do anything to it. That’s our dataset that we have to work with. Going forward, we can work on the latest, greatest machines because that’s what this is,” he said.

Added Young: “You’ve got bigger equipment and much more technology (on farms today). If that equipment breaks down and you can’t get it fixed, that’s going to limit the factors of production. And all of a sudden, a farm isn’t going to be economical.

“Downtime is the worst time. So farmers need to know that they can count on service support from farm equipment dealers when they need it. And that when they come out, they can actually fix the problem.”

Thomson said many students at the Polytechnic are younger than some of the equipment in the teaching inventory.

“Previous to this we were working on machines from … 1980 and to augment that we were using machines borrowed from industry, but we really can’t do any invasive type work because it’s a lone piece of machinery. You’re not going take it apart and risk something,” he said.

“We were at the point where the old model tractors that we had were usable for very basic entry level stuff, but the actual diagnostic portion of it was becoming very limited.

“With this (donation), we can plant what we call bugs in the machines so that we can change how it interacts, how it appears to the student and have them actually do the diagnostics on it as you would a new one.”

The in-kind gift represents a partial donation for the school, which paid $120,000 from its capital expense budget.

“We know we need to broaden the colours of equipment that we work on to be applicable to everybody. Young’s Equipment has certainly helped bring their colour brand name to the business and that’s super for us,” he said.

Thomson said it’s a constant effort to stay abreast of technology as it evolves.

And as the needs of the industry grow, so too does the number of students that enter the trade.

“We’ve increased enrolment this year and now still we have a huge wait list. So industry is looking for people. Our position is to try to train them on the latest, greatest stuff, as well as the old stuff that’s still applicable,” he said.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic has 10 instructors and about 250 students a year in three programs, which include a 35-week certificate program where no experience is required and a multi-level apprenticeship training, as well as the John Deere tech multi-level apprenticeship program.

Morgan Kuntz, a first-year ag technician student, said he was excited to get his hands on the new equipment, particularly the CVT transmission.

“To be able to actually understand how the brand new tractors work because we’re used to working on older stuff” is an advantage, he said.

“To be able to see it first-hand in school, fully taken apart and see how it actually works gives me a leg up in the shop because I can go back in my mind, ‘Oh, I remember how that works.’ So this is supposed to do this and this, but this isn’t working, so I know how to fix it.”

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