Western Kansas

The John Deere Agriculture Technology Program, at Garden City Community College, just earned selection as a model for rural economic growth from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The program was chosen for inclusion in a project entitled Benchmark Practices for Local Economies, which is managed by the Regional Technology Strategies organization. Carrboro and Chapel Hill, NC, and financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Fund for Rural America.

The project's objective is to share successful models for supporting rural economies, according to GCCC John Deere Ag Tech Coordinator Kent Kolbeck. RTS plans to focus on the partnership between GCCC and the John Deere Company as one of 50 model efforts across the nation. Case studies on all 50 will be published for international distribution, and posted on the Worldwide web.

The GCCC program was among more than 110 screened by a panel of administrators, policy makers and rural development researchers. Nominations came from the U.S., Denmark, Austria, South Africa, Iceland and New Zealand.

The case study on the GCCC program will examine objectives, outcomes, partnerships, innovations and challenges, according to Stuart Rosenfeld, an RTS officer, who notified Kolbeck of the program's selection. About 10 of the programs will be singled out for more in-depth studies, but it isn't known whether GCCC will be among those.

Distribution of the printed case studies will take place through the National Governor's Association, the National Association of Development Organizations, the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the American Association of Community Colleges. Dissemination outside the U.S. is planned through the Trans-Atlantic Technology and Training Alliance, a multi-national association known as the European Commission, and national governments of the participating countries.

"The project team also will write articles and speak at conferences to highlight the importance of these community college efforts," Rosenfeld said. The project's interactive Web site, he added, will feature each program's practices, cross-referenced by type of program, type of economy, target population and other factors.

Kolbeck said he expects to be contacted soon by a project team member to gather information about the program. He was first notified by letter.

The GCCC John Deere Ag Tech Program trains individuals who want to become qualified service technicians in John Deere dealerships throughout the central U.S. Each student splits time between classroom and hands-on lab experiences and supervised internships at sponsoring dealers of the U.S. tractor, combine and tillage equipment manufacturer.

GCCC provides facilities, administration and instruction. The John Deere Company and its dealer service network provide technical support, equipment and new state-of-the-art tractors and combines to give students real-life experience.

Individuals who complete the two-year program successfully go on to dealership employment, and also earn college associate degrees. GCCC can teach up to 40 JDAT students at a time--20 freshmen and 20 sophomores.

"We are proud to have been selected, and we are looking forward to participating," Kolbeck said. "We also are proud of the fact that this is a program that has a graduate job placement rate of almost 100%. In fact, there is a demand for more technicians than we can produce."

The GCCC program is one of 20 John Deere and college training partnerships--17 in the U.S. and three in Canada. It was launched in 1991, during a Garden City visit by U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, then a U.S. representative. It is the only program of its kind in Kansas. The nearest similar programs are in Nebraska, Texas, North Dakota and Iowa.

Anyone with questions about the program may reach Kolbeck, at 316-276-9512. Those interested in enrolling in the program may call GCCC Admissions, at 316-276-9608 or 1-800-658-1696.

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