‘Life-changing’ Agricultural Technology Program prepares students for careers | VTx

The first of its kind

The Agricultural Technology Program started as – and remains – the only associate’s degree program at Virginia Tech. During the two years in the program, students experience concentrated and specialized courses that prepare them for their chosen careers.

As part of the program, all Agricultural Technology students are required to take an occupational internship, an experience that can change the career path of students. Work experience is gained through an internship normally completed between the first and second year of classes. Students choose a job that suits their interests and work for a minimum of 10 weeks and 400 hours. This opportunity provides valuable work experience that enhances a resume and helps students solidify career choices.

A couple of years ago, Mills had a first-year student in the program do an internship program with him.

“He had no prior experience with livestock – he had never been on a tractor in his life,” Mills said. “I showed him how to turn the key to crank the tractor. At the end of the internship, this young man was running all the equipment that we had. He was working cattle, giving shots, and involved in every aspect of our operation. I trusted him so much that I turned him loose to just do the jobs.

“He now has a farm operation of his own because of his experiences in Ag Tech,” Mills continued. “That’s special to me. As someone who hired an intern, I saw this young man go from basically not knowing anything about the industry to having his own part of the industry.”

These experiences aren’t just reserved for recent high school graduates.

Jeffrey Estienne, a 2020 graduate of the Applied Agricultural Management option and the 2020 Agricultural Technology Outstanding Senior, served four years in the United States Marine Corps and worked at the Virginia Tech Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center before entering the program. He excelled academically with dean’s list recognition while serving the university and his community during his time as a student.  

Applied experiences drive education

The Agricultural Technology Program takes traditional topics and adds hands-on labs. Students go outside the classroom to install a landscape they designed, conduct soil tests, and plant tissue analyses, calibrate sprayers, artificially inseminate cattle, or analyze a business enterprise.

For his lab every Wednesday, McKenzie heads out to local farms and gardens for his pest management class – far away from the traditional four-walled world. He and all of the other students in the course can see how pests, such as the squash beetle, can damage gardens or how armyworms damage lawns.

“When I graduate, I plan to start my own landscaping business and see where it goes from there,” McKenzie said. “Because of Ag Tech, I will have the skills and knowledge to make a successful business.”

With such a practical education, graduates fulfill the industry demand of training beyond the high school level. Each of the faculty members in Agricultural Technology has industry experience and passes on their working knowledge to better prepare students.

“The faculty and staff in the program do an incredible job,” Mills said. “They prepare these young people to go out into the workforce. I’m very proud of the students that they’re putting out into the industry.”


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