In Virginia, agriculture and its related industries are an important part of the state’s economic base, accounting for almost $79 billion in total industry output in 2006 (Rephann, 2008). Every job created in agriculture results in an additional 1.5 jobs in the state and every value-added dollar results in another $1.75 entering the state economy. Although the agricultural sector has had steady production in recent years, numerous factors impact future growth, including “production technology, consumer demand, energy, urban population growth, government policy, and the global economy” (p. 4). The Commonwealth of Virginia can be in a position to lead the nation in feeding the world. Virginia is within a one-day drive of 2/3 of the U.S. population and the Virginia Port Authority is the deepest and most active Eastern port in the United States.
The VA Agricultural Education Centers of Innovation are working with local communities in rural Virginia to develop eight innovative model programs for workforce development. Programs are designed to build capacity for increasing the trained agriculture workforce across the Commonwealth with emphasis on providing high-quality learning experiences for students. Focus points include:
Focus points include:
- Comprehensive academic and career planning for students beginning in middle grades
- Comprehensive, rigorous, and relevant learning experiences
- Infusion of critical technology skills in the program that are aligned with the requirements for the industry
- Flexible, innovative delivery systems for Agricultural Education courses that reflect coordination between secondary and postsecondary education
- Student access to “stackable” industry credentials for successful transition from high school to direct entry to the workforce or further education
- Continual teacher retraining and professional development.
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The VA Agricultural Centers of Innovation is a statewide and coalition-based program housed in Virginia Tech's Department of Agricultural and Extension Education. Program activity is currently funded, in part, with an integrated, grant from The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and the VT Foundation Account for Community Viability, with participating schools matching a portion of the costs. For more information, contact Donna Westfall-Rudd, Program Director, by email email@example.com or at (540) 231-5717.