West Hills Community College
Is Applied-Based for Ag Students
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
Students looking for an
applied type of education in the robust $45 billion agricultural world of
California have a good option-- classes and degree at West Hills Community College
in Coalinga, with their strategic Farm of the Future program.
Here are the high demand vocational
agricultural and industrial science areas that can lead to good job prospects.
· Agricultural Science and Technology
· Agricultural Pest Control Advisor
· Heavy Equipment Operation
· Industrial Maintenance Technology
Among the most popular
curriculums for West Hills agricultural students is the pest control advisor
program. While PCAs specialize in insect and disease management and prevention,
their job also entails other production concerns related to plant health. PCAs
not only work for farming operations, but also for municipalities in
maintaining roadway vegetation, assisting golf courses to be pest free as well
as greenhouses and landscapes.
The PCA industry is
considered high growth over the next 10 years as many long-time PCAs are
starting to retire.
In 24 months, with applicable
work experience, the college prepares student for the California Department of
Pesticide Regulations Agricultural PCA exam. The course work is geared for
working students who can study online at home and travel to Coalinga on
weekends for classroom and field experience.
The curriculum is part of the
Farm of the Future, which is located on 230 acres in Coalinga and was donated
in 2001 by the Allen Family (with special thanks to Dorothy Allen). To date,
West Hills Community College District has invested more than $24 million on the
site’s infrastructure, which includes a shop, rodeo grounds and stable areas
David Castillo is the Interim
Director of the Farm of the Future. Castillo will oversee the farm’s almonds,
pistachios, garlic, and alfalfa operations. “Student’s can learn hands on here
and understand the nuances of agriculture, which gives them a boost in the work
force,” he said.
“We are an education
institution first, so we can take a risk on what we are farming and try new
things,” said Frances Squire, Executive Director of the West Hills Community
College Foundation, which helps raise money and secure grants for the college.
A lot of what we are offering
at West Hills is what the farming and other industries have told us what they
need, noted Squire. “Farmers have told us that they need PCAs, and PG&E has
told us they need welders so that’s why we are offering the course work. You
can count on our students with certificates in hand to find jobs once they finish
here, or if they want or need to further their education they are well equipped
to attend a university,” Squire said.
West Hills Community College
is part of the West Hills Community College District, which began in 1932.
Today the district encompasses a 3,464 square mile region that includes
portions of five surrounding counties including Fresno, Kings, Madera, Monterey
and San Benito. The district also has a North District Center campus in
Firebaugh and well as two campuses in Lemoore, one in the town of Lemoore with
an additional site at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore.
Labels: Coalinga, David Castillo, Farm of the future, Frances Squire, PCA, West Hills Community College