Keeping in step with the increasingly rapid evolution of the agricultural industry, the Olds College School of Agriculture, Land and Environment is making sweeping, timely changes to its diploma programs.
Beginning in September 2009, Olds College will offer its new Agricultural Management Diploma, blending the strengths of soon-to-be-retired diplomas in Agricultural Business, Crop & Agri Food Technology, and Agricultural Production. Students within the Agricultural Management Diploma program will be able to choose between majors in Finance, Marketing and Production. A Bioprocessing & Distribution Major will be added to the diploma program in 2010.
In 2005-06, Olds College conducted a number of face-to-face interviews with agricultural employers and producers across Alberta to document industry expectations of agricultural graduates. The research revealed a requirement for multiple skills, and emphasized the need for greater understanding of thin financial margins at all levels of agriculture, evolving technology applications, the consumer-driven marketplace, the requirement for agriculture to shift away from commodity marketing and globalization throughout the agricultural value chain.
What came out clearly is that modern agribusinesses need good generalists. Agriculture is very much about integrating multiple elements, not just about a single discipline,” says Joel Gingrich, Chair of the Olds College School of Agriculture and Land Management. “It’s about making sure students have career flexibility when they graduate from the program.
With enrolment having actually increased for the current school year – an indicator of longstanding confidence in Olds College’s agricultural programs – it’s important to note that previous diplomas may be absent in name but the core agricultural production and business education that is a mainstay for students is still very much present.
“Somebody who is interested in going back to the farm can still do that. We integrate animals, agronomy, business and technology so they can be successful,” says Gingrich. “But now, more than ever, they also have the option of taking that education and carrying on into agribusiness – where there is a greater abundance and diversity of jobs than ever before.”