“It’s good preparation for both the workplace and post-secondary education. The kids have to think for themselves and don’t have someone watching them all the time.”
PEACE REGION CO-ORDINATOR
A 35-year-old Alberta government agricultural training program is proving that it can still encourage teens to stay connected to their farming roots – if not necessarily on the farm.
Amber Havens, the Green Certificate Program co-ordinator for the Peace region, says that high school students initially see the program as a means to earn up to 16 of the 100 credits they need for their graduation diploma.
The program is offered to students who are at least 15 years old and in Grade 10. The attraction, especially for kids who live on farms, is that a parent or relative is usually the official trainer – and pays the registration fee for the program.
They must finish the program in three years, before they graduate from Grade 12, and can choose one or more of four modules – cow-calf/ feedlot/sheep/ swine/ dairy; field crop/irrigated crops; beekeeping; or equine.
Each module has a comprehensive manual published by the Government of Alberta. It’s a form of workplace training that allows for the option of paid or unpaid work and is covered by the Workers Compensation Board. Trainers are not paid, and remuneration for trainees is outside the purview of the Green Certificate Program.
Each trainee must complete a safety course and each farm work-site is inspected.
The program exposes the trainee to a variety of agriculture-related career paths, including post-secondary education – and allows them to earn a recognized credential in agribusiness.
The program offers benefits to both the farmer/trainer and their teenaged trainee. The trainer must follow the apprenticeship-style method, and offer both encouragement and solid knowledge of industry standards. Unlike high school, where courses are set and have to be followed in a particular order, the Green Certificate course sections can be done in any order, as long as all of them are covered within the module.
“It’s good preparation for both the workplace and post-secondary education. The kids have to think for themselves and don’t have someone watching them all the time,” says Havens.
As well, tests are conducted periodically throughout the program, when the trainee and their mentor feels they are ready. Each section in a module, labelled X, Y and Z, is worth either five or six credits, depending on the course, for a total of 16 credits on completion.
If a student wishes to do a second module, they don’t earn any more credits towards their high school diploma, but they can work towards a technician certificate. These sections of the module extend the trainees’ skill set into a number of additional areas, such as communication, shipping/ receiving, applying pest control materials, quality assurance, vehicle servicing, hay cutting and baling, riding and care of a horse and time management.
The Alberta government offers the school divisions a fee for each credit earned by a student in the Green Certificate Program. It helps to offset the cost the school must pay for each trainee – about $1,000 – and may actually exceed that amount if the student earns the maximum number of credits. There is no cost to the trainee for the workshops or special training sessions which are part of the program. Tests are conducted three times a year, and arranged through the regional co-ordinator.
Once the trainee completes the program, they receive an official certificate from the Alberta Government, something that the students regard with not a little pride, Havens says. “They have to work hard to earn it.”