Swine Jobs School to Train Students for Jobs

Includes both classroom and on-farm time.

Published on: Aug 25, 2009
Recognizing the need for skilled employees to meet the technical needs of the Michigan pork industry, the Michigan State University Pork Team will blend classroom instruction and hands-on experience to train students for daily work with swine producers in the state.

The program's focus will be on students who have varied educational backgrounds and are looking for new employment opportunities. Swine Jobs School is designed to teach the skills needed to work with pigs as well as teach job and interpersonal skills needed for employment.

"Swine Jobs School will provide a pool of trained potential employees," say Gerald May, Extension educator in Gratiot County. "The program will help students looking for employment to find good paying jobs. It also provides producers with employees who have some training."

The program developed from a swine producer issues session where producers told Michigan State University Extension educators that employee training, conflict management and labor availability were priorities.

Nearly one-third of Michigan's sow herd is located in counties across central Michigan, from Oceana and Mason counties on the west side, to Mecosta and Gratiot in the center of the state and east on to Huron County in Michigan's thumb. These farms are modern production facilities with more than 2,000 sows per breeding farm and contract finishers exceeding 4,000 head per site.

"It is interesting to note that most of this production has been developed over the last 10 years and is located in areas with less history of pork production," says  Dale Rozeboom, associate professor of animal science and Extension specialist. "These farms need employees with a general knowledge of pork production and a basic set of animal husbandry and professional skills."

The goal of the program is to design, facilitate and deliver a curriculum to educate and make skilled employees available for the pork industry.

The first two weeks of the school will include 10 sessions with a combination of classroom instruction and on-farm supervised training. The sessions will be held in Ithaca, and all participants will be expected to attend classes there. During this portion of the program, students will receive technical training and supervised work experience in breeding, farrowing, nursery and finishing phases of production and feed processing.

To reinforce the on-farm supervised training, Swine Jobs School includes 12 weeks of on-farm work experience. During this portion of the program, students will work a minimum of 20 hours a week for 12 weeks on a swine farm in their community. Students will rotate through all phases of the farm, gaining experience in each area of production. The areas of production emphasized during the on-farm work experience will be flexible to meet the interests of the students and the needs of the host farm.

The final phase of the program includes instruction in practical areas of pork production. The classroom sessions, conducted once a week during the 12-week on-farm work experience, will include sessions on feeding and nutrition, keeping and using production records, farm communication, swine disease and treating disease, and ventilation and farm maintenance.

The Swine Jobs School will be taught by MSU Pork Team members. It is supported by MSU Extension; the National Pork Board; Circle K Family Farms, LLC; Lafayette Pork Production, LLC; the Gratiot Isabella RESD and Alma High School VocAg program. This pilot program has been funded through the North Central Risk Management Education Center.

For more information about Swine Jobs School, check out the Web site at web1.msue.msu.edu/msue/aoe/swine/swineindex.html or contact May at (989) 875-5233.