Farmers or their families interested in an agrelated career, offering a paycheque with more stability than crop and livestock marketing, may want to consider the ongoing demand for farm machinery technicians and mechanics.
It is estimated farm machinery dealers across the Prairies need more than 1,000 technicians, says a spokesperson for the Canada West Equipment Dealers Association (CWEDA). “Surveys show that many of the dealerships across the West have openings for at least two technicians,” says Krista Thompson, CWEDA education co-ordinator.
“There are excellent opportunities for young people looking to enter the work force, or even producers who have been farming for several years to participate in apprenticeship programs available in all provinces.”
Agricultural equipment technicians are graduates of four-year college apprenticeship programs, trained for a wide range of duties at a dealership, including engine overhaul and repair, service of mechanical and power-shift transmissions, and service to hydraulic and electrical systems, on tractors and all types of farm machinery. They also assemble and adjust new farm machinery.
“Technician training is a combination of on-the-job and technical training, in an earn-while-you-learn environment,” says Thompson. “The training program includes eight weeks each year in a college classroom, and the rest of the time the trainee is being paid on the job at a machinery dealership.
“The apprenticeship is a good opportunity for young people right out of high school, but a lot of students are in the 26-to 30-year age range. They have worked for a while and are looking for new careers,” she says.
Pay scales for working technicians can range from $20 to $37 per hour depending on the region and type of machinery dealership.
While trainees are paid while working at dealerships, many can also access scholarships and living allowances through CWEDA or the individual machinery dealership.
Machinery and equipment technician training programs are offered in all Prairie provinces through colleges such as Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Man., Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology in Saskatoon, Olds College in Olds, Alta., and Lethbridge College in Lethbridge, Alta.
“A good start for anyone interested in the equipment technician program is to first contact a local farm machinery dealer to discuss their career objectives and to ask about apprenticeship opportunities,” says Thompson.
The dealer will have the necessary paperwork and program details, she says. Those interested can also check out the CWEDA website at www.cweda.ca,or phone the association at 403-250-7581. —Lee Hart