Rhodes State AG tech program receives grants


LIMA — Rhodes State College recently announced that the agriculture technology program has received grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The NSF grant, in the amount of $526,765, will be used to create Grow with Rhodes Institute where high school STEM and agriculture teachers can tap into Rhodes’ agriculture technology, data and resources to foster interest and preparedness for agriculture technology careers in high school students.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown referenced the grant to Rhodes State in a press release early in 2023. “We unleash more American innovation when we nurture Ohio talent,” Brown said. “This award will help Rhodes State College students prepare for careers at good-paying, skilled jobs, and continue Ohio’s leadership in innovation.”

The NSF supports research and education in all non-medical fields of science and engineering.

The NIFA grant, in the amount of $600,000, will be used to fund Rhodes State’s new innovative program called Ag REACH. Ag REACH will catalyze the expansion of embedding industry-recognized credentials within the two-year associate degree in agriculture technology at Rhodes State and REACH into the area high schools and communities to offer credential training to support the current and future agriculture workforce of northwest Ohio.

As one of only 10 community colleges across the nation to receive the NIFA grant, Rhodes State will endeavor to fulfill the agricultural workforce training at Community Colleges (AWT) program’s initiative to develop a workforce ready for the field as well as industry jobs in the food and agricultural sector. Through the development of new workforce training programs, or the expansion, improvement or renewal of existing workforce training programs at community, junior and technical colleges/institutes, the AWT program will expand job-based, experiential learning opportunities, acquisition of industry-accepted credentials and occupational competencies for students to enable a work-ready labor force for the 21st century.

“We are pleased that Rhodes State’s innovative ag tech program is the recipient of these two distinguished grants,” said Dr. Cynthia E. Spiers, the president of Rhodes State College. “We are excited to showcase the ways in which we are leading the way to change the industry of agriculture.”

The grants will support a variety of initiatives at Rhodes State, including:

• Launching career-specific ag tech pathway materials and hands-on experiences for both STEM and agriculture high school students and their teachers.

• Fostering interest in agriculture careers.

• Collaborating with high school STEM teachers by using the Rhodes State Mobile Lab to teach Grow with Rhodes Institute modules to their students.

• Providing opportunities for high school students to obtain industry-recognized credentials, giving them high school credit while preparing them for immediate workforce entry. The following industry-recognized credentials will be offered: agriculture commodity tester, commercial pesticide applicator, part 107 remote pilot certification, fanuc robot operator 1 certification, and BASF plant science.

• Developing and piloting community training modules for individuals who want to benefit their farming practices and for employers who want to upskill their current workforce.

The grants will be used over a period of three years.

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