The talent pipeline for the agricultural workforce begins well before college, and today the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced the availability of $858,500 in funding to strengthen K-14 education in the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human (FANH) sciences.
“Nearly 40%of jobs in the food, agricultural, and environmental sciences will go unfilled in the next five years,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “It’s critical to invest in programs that reach, educate, and promote retention of a diverse group of students who can benefit from learning science in the classroom and in their careers.”
The Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education, and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants Program (SPECA) supports projects that improve science education and help increase and diversify the future FANH sciences workforce. Projects may be developed for K-12 state Agriculture in the Classroom programs, for secondary schools, and for junior or community colleges. Projects can target curriculum development and faculty development or establish partnerships with other academic institutions.
The SPECA program encourages projects that bring together academic institutions, other organizations, and employers to address state or regional challenges in the FANH sciences education and workforce community. The program also encourages projects that offer state or regional potential to increase the number, quality, diversity, and retention of K-14 level students who pursue college degrees in the FANH sciences.
Since 2006, NIFA has awarded more than $7 million through the SPECA program to support K-14 educational and vocational training in the agricultural sciences, which contribute to a skilled, diverse scientific workforce in agriculture. Previously funded projects include Dig It STL!, an internship program training St. Louis, MO, teens in urban agriculture and community leadership. Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, IA, expanded its Mobile Precision Ag Lab, a traveling high school agriculture curriculum, with more onsite, hands-on activities and demonstrations, including unmanned aerial vehicles and advanced planter technologies.
The project also established a Center for Knowledge and Skills to help students establish relationships with potential employers.
Proposals are due March 10, 2017.