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Alberta high schools going green

COW-CALF MOST POPULAR The most popular program is the cow-calf sector, 
followed closely by the equine program, launched in 1999

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The Green Certificate Program is available in 206 high schools in Alberta to offer students in agriculture a practical, valuable head start on career training.

The program has been in existence since 1975, and in 1999 it was brought into the program of studies through Alberta Education and it was brought in as part of the high school program at that time,” explained Green Certificate Program provincial co-ordinator Raelene Mercer. “It’s had quite a long history.”

With an apprenticeship style of delivery, students learn hands-on skills they may use one day in their professional life. Students must be 15 years old and entering Grade 10 to enrol in the program, and they can earn 16, 33-level credits if they complete one specialization. Each specialization takes 18 months to complete. Students learn while on the job, absorbing the direction and experience from farm personnel, while under the supervision and administration of Alberta Agriculture and Alberta Education.

Nine specializations

There are three courses offered in each of the nine specializations, which include cow-calf production, dairy production, feedlot beef production, field crop production, sheep production, swine production, beekeeping and equine production. Some schools in northern B.C. offer the same program, as does Saskatchewan Agriculture. There are currently 1,038 students enrolled in the program in Alberta, with the top three most popular specializations being cow-calf production, equine production and field crop production. “We just got equine into the mix in 2009, so since that time, equine has really driven some of our numbers up. Now equine and cow-calf are pretty close in being our top enrolment specialities,” said Mercer.

There are 383 students in the cow-calf program, and 313 in the equine program currently, followed by 184 students in field crop production. There are only nine students in the beekeeping program, but despite the small number, the program was created in response to demand.

“The Alberta beekeeping industry at the time had a need to do training in beekeeping because that was a time when there was nothing available in Alberta. They as an industry did a needs assessment, approached Alberta Agriculture and together we moved forward on developing that curriculum,” Mercer explained.

When the equine program was introduced, enrolment numbers jumped, but that growth wasn’t restricted only to the new course. “Not only did the equine numbers contribute to an increase in overall enrolment, but it brought a lot of attention to the rest of our program, so overall, all of our numbers picked up,” said Mercer, saying that the numbers over the years continue to grow as the interest in the program increases. “When you look at the trend, we’re definitely growing.”

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