Lakeland College is offering a degree program for the first time since opening in 1913.
The bachelor of agriculture technology degree is the first of its kind to be offered in Canada.
The college also created a new central hub, known as the Agriculture Technology Centre, where most of the research work for the degree is expected to take place.
“We’ve repeatedly had our diploma students telling us that we should be offering a degree at Lakeland,” said Josie Van Lent, the dean of Lakeland College. “And so there was a demand from students for us to offer a degree.”
When planning the program, Lakeland reached out to people in the agriculture industry. Employers said they wanted future employees to have business and hands-on skills, as well as technology skills. Van Lent also said there was a need for more training in forage and range management.
“We said, well, gee, why don’t we have our diploma students that have the IT industry management, farm management, the production side, already built into the learning outcomes of our diploma program, and layer on top of that, and give them an intense two years?”
The degree requires two years of additional schooling after students earn a diploma. The first year consists of 10 courses at Lakeland, which focus on business, technology and skill development. The second year is six or seven months of industry practicum. After that, the student returns to Lakeland and gives a capstone presentation.
“As we were developing the degree and the curriculum, we thought, wow, like there’s so much cool stuff we could be doing with these students in lab. And that’s how we got to the need for the Ag Technology Centre, and also for research purposes,” said Van Lent.
The Agriculture Technology Centre allows students and researchers to bring in large equipment for students to work on.
“If they understand how this equipment is actually physically hard-wired into a piece of equipment, then they can understand how to troubleshoot it,” Van Lent said.
“And so, you know, this allows our students to have that space to work on those things. We’re also opening it up to industry. We’ve already had industry interested prior to it being renovated.”
According to the Lakeland College website, the centre is an 8,000 square foot building, which consists of a technology hub with displays and analytical tools; a combined lab and classroom space; a makerspace; and a centralized centre for data collection.
There are about 25 students in the degree program. One of them, Bobbi-Jo Foster, said as soon as Lakeland offered the degree, she decided to take it.
As 2020 was the last year in her diploma at Lakeland, she was able to start in the degree program right away.
“There’s a lot more technology driven initiatives, so like displays and analytic tools, combined lab and classroom space and a lot of area for equipment demonstrations and training,” Foster said. “So I’ve learned more in the technology side of agriculture, which is really cool because I didn’t really come off that type of operation.”
She said it was nice for her to be able to continue her education at Lakeland while also being the first group of students to get this degree.
“It’s very exciting, to be able to take your education somewhere where it feels like home, and to kind of have this new agriculture technology side in my background after I’m done and graduated. That’s a pretty cool opportunity, because that is where agriculture is going,” Foster said.