The following was provided to WaterWrights.net by College of Sequoias.
“Training Technicians for Efficient Water Use and Application”
College of the Sequoias Irrigation Program was established in 2017 through a Strong Workforce Development Grant. The Agriculture Division assessed local needs and decided that water management and irrigation technology were critical to the agriculture industry in the surrounding area. Developed by instructor Charlie Abee the program consists of four core classes and several elective courses. Students can get an associate degree in Agriculture Technology with a focus in Irrigation, a Water Management Certificate, or an Irrigation Technician Certificate. “Develop the program from scratch has been a tremendous undertaking”, states Charlie Abee, “I have been fortunate to connect with the local industry through the Irrigation Association and the California Agriculture Irrigation Association. The local industry has been tremendously supportive of our program and I am very grateful for this support.”
Equipment, facilities, industry connections and instructor training are irrelevant without the key component of students. Perhaps “If you build it, they will come” only works in the movies as the program is struggling to get the successful enrollment numbers it needs to be a viable program at the college. Working with the advisory committee Abee decided to try a different approach. “We offered classes as a traditional academic program. Spaced through two or three semesters so students could take other classes. Students and industry need a fast turnaround time, so we decided to condense the program into a semester.” Starting in the Fall of 2021, students in the Irrigation Academy will sign up for four irrigation courses and three units of work experience. The courses will be offered two days a week Tuesday and Thursday allowing students the rest of the week to complete their work experience program. The goal for the program is to get 15 students signed up for the program. Abee is currently looking for 15 work experience placement sites for his students in the Fall of 2021. These placement sites can be paid or unpaid placement sites. The goal behind the program is to get students a jump start in the irrigation industry and provide them some in the field training to round out the student’s experience.
The academic part of the program consists of four core classes: Water Management, Irrigation Pumps, Irrigation Design and Irrigation Components. These courses utilize curriculum developed by the Irrigation Association and the Irrigation Training and Research Center at Cal Poly. Some of the topics covered range from Plant Soil Water Relationships to Pump Curves, Distribution Uniformity to using IrriCAD and water regulations like SGMA. Remote operation and monitoring are also technologies students will be exposed to at the College of the Sequoias Student Ag Experimental (SAgE) Farm on the Tulare College Center Campus. Students will gain an understanding of pump operation and variable frequency drives using the schools mobile pumping lab like the lab used by the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State. “In my experience people learn best with a hands on approach and that is how we have set our courses and program up is to allow students to experience the irrigation industry by getting out in the field and getting their hands on pumps, valves, soil and plants”, says Abee.
“Developing anything new is an uphill battle” Abee said, “This valley relies on water and if I can help introduce new passionate people into the industry then it is worth the battle.” If you are interested in the program or interested in being a placement worksite to advance the training of individuals in the irrigation industry please contact Charlie Abee at College of the Sequoias (559) 688-3141 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
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