Looking for a successful and challenging career? Grow your skills? Earn a comfortable income? Be valued and work on some of the most advanced equipment in the world? An Agricultural Equipment Technician Apprenticeship may be for you!
Equipment enables farmers to do more with less. Today’s farmer can harvest or plant in an hour what not all that long ago would have taken a week to accomplish. That pace of change and innovation isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
The agriculture equipment industry in Pennsylvania and the northeast region is expected to turn over nearly 100% of its mechanics and service technicians over the next ten years.
That means Dealers will need to attract more than 1,000 new and replacement technicians who are fully trained and have mastered the technological, diagnostic and mechanical skills necessary to support an ever-evolving equipment industry.
What is an apprentice? A pre-apprentice?
So, what does and Agricultural Equipment Technician do? What is an apprentice? A pre-apprentice?
Agricultural Equipment Technicians, are responsible for assembling, tuning, maintaining, testing adapting and play an importantly role in the design development process. They are on the “front lines”, Farmers, Dealers and Manufacturers all depend on them to keep the equipment up and running! Technicians will use everything from basic hand tools and welders to the very latest in computer/diagnostic software and will work on a variety of equipment to tractors (big and small), planters, harvesting, and irrigation equipment just to name a few.
Both NEDA’s Agricultural Equipment Technician Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship programs are registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. The primary difference between the programs is that the apprentice is hired by a dealer as an employee, with both the dealer and candidate subject to a formal agreement and specific expectations. A pre-apprentice is generally still in high school.
In contrast to interns, apprentices are hired by employers at a training wage which allows them to prove their competency with the skills and knowledge required through a series of steps along the way…earning while they learn. An Apprentice someone who “earns while the learn”, they get “hands on experience’ working under the direction and with the support of a mentor complete course work specifically designed to help support their “on-the-Job” training. They:
- Earn a competitive wage from day one
- Gain knowledge with a combination of structured learning and on-the-job training
- Enhance your resume with industry-recognized credentials
- All without racking up a huge debt!
What is a Pre-Apprenticeship?
A pre-apprenticeship is an opportunity for a candidate to explore a career as an ag equipment technician, complete course work, participate in hands-on training, participate in select opportunities to intern at dealerships, complete micro-certification and competency testing without formally enrolling in an apprenticeship.
Within our pre-apprenticeship program all work and testing completed is credited should the candidate enroll in the full apprenticeship program and could result in a higher hourly wage and faster program completion. In fact, the pre-apprenticeship is identical to levels 1 & 2 (of 4) found in the full apprenticeship.
Although the pre-apprenticeship is primarily focused on high school students’ accommodations can be made for adults interested in exploring careers in the equipment industry.
The Northeast Equipment Dealers Association in co-operation with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor took a unique approach to and built competency-based programs for both pre-apprenticeship (levels 1 & 2) and an apprenticeship program focused on building the necessary skills validated by independent testing rather than the traditional “time” and “coursework” apprenticeship model.
How long does it take?
Because our programs are competency based a candidate can “test” into the program at an advanced level and/or work at building their knowledge/skills at their own pace! Successful passage of a step results in an increase in wage.
The expectation is that the apprentice will complete all of the steps, finish the apprenticeship, get their nationally-recognized journey-person certificate, receive full journey-person pay, and stay with the employer as a valued technician. There are currently four agriculture equipment dealers, primarily in Lancaster County, that are part of the apprenticeship employer consortium but that number is expected to grow quickly and spread across Pennsylvania.
For most participants, the program will take about two years. We have planned for 4,000 hours of on-the-job training with just over 800 hours of related training over two years. You may be able to lower the number of hours of on-the-job and related training if you have taken an agriculture mechanics course and/or an SAE with an agriculture equipment dealer as a part of your high school agriculture education experience. There is a cost for the related training, which is done through local education programs, but your employer and the overall sponsor will work with you to identify scholarships and other resources, which will help you, address these costs.