Starting in the fall of 2009 and running through 2010, the Michigan State University Extension Pork Team conducted Swine Jobs School. The project provides an employee preparedness program using Extension and University specialists as instructors and local farms as on-farm training facilities.

Swine Jobs School was developed in response to the human resource needs of Michigan´s pork industry. The program provided practical skills to new entrants into the work force and assisted displaced workers seeking new opportunities in alternate career fields. 

Each class of Swine Jobs School lasted a total of eleven weeks. The first two weeks were a combination of classroom instruction and on-farm supervised training. During this portion of the program, students received approximately 40 hours of classroom instruction combined with supervised on-farm training in breeding, farrowing, nursery and finishing phases of production, animal handling, swine health and feed processing.

The second phase of the program included 9 weeks of on-farm work experience. During this portion of the program, students worked a minimum of 16 hours per week on a swine farm in their community.

Three Swine Jobs School programs were offered and a total of 21 students enrolled.

Eleven students completed all phases of the program. At the time of the program’s evaluation in January 2011, four of the 11 were currently working on swine farms with two having advanced into positions with greater responsibilities. After completing the program, two students decided to continue their education. Only two of the eleven were still looking for positions on swine farms.

All students were asked to provide their own evaluation of the program. They reported they liked the format of the program combining classroom studies with hands-on experience. They felt the curriculum was appropriate and not too demanding. Some students felt additional hands-on instruction prior to their reporting for the on-farm work experience would have been helpful. They expressed no reservations concerning the sixteen hours per week for the nine week on-farm work experience that was completed without compensation.

In their evaluations of the program, host farm managers reported that Swine Jobs School students were 50 percent better prepared to work on swine farms than new employees who did not participate in the school. Managers stated that Swine Jobs School graduates were three to four months ahead of any new employee who had not participated in the program. Farm managers also reported the rewards from acting as host farms for the on-farm supervised instruction and the on-farm work experience exceeded the costs of participation, including the lower labor productivity as a result of employees taking time to train the program’s students.

Swine Jobs School successfully provided a rural education program incorporating classroom studies and experiential learning. Student evaluations indicate even those who didn’t complete the program were positively impacted by participating in the jobs training program.

During the post-program evaluation, the program’s facilitator reported 75 percent of the 21 participants were currently employed or continuing their education, but only 24 percent were employed in an area related to swine production.

Source: Michigan State University