LETHBRIDGE - Lethbridge College's newest program, Agricultural Enterprise Management, was born out of a gap in current curriculums identified by industry members themselves.
A release states the AEM program is an innovative, integrated credential that's been developed in partnership with the University of Lethbridge's Faculty of Management to address the changing agricultural and agri-food sector by focusing on business solutions relevant to the industry.
Lethbridge College's Dean of the Centre for Applied Management, Dennis Sheppard, says they brought together stakeholders and identified which parts of the agriculture industry were missing from current educational opportunities.
"Agriculture is a $110-billion per year industry in Canada and represents more than seven per cent of the national GDP. Primary production operations continue to transform into large-scale enterprises responsible for employing 2.3 million Canadians, and compared to other developed or developing nations, Canada ranks eighth in terms of exports. This leaves a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and innovators to invest in value-added processing and highly technological means of creating efficiency and bottom-line wealth," Sheppard says.
Sheppard also pointed out that after discussions with industry members, it became quite clear that there was a void on the business side of agriculture.
As a result, the program will bring together economics, management and production to deliver a balanced curriculum to give students a strong foundation.
The two-year AEM diploma program received provincial approval in the fall.
Agricultural Enterprise Management was developed as part of the Southern Alberta Agriculture and Agribusiness Program, thanks to a transformational $5 million gift from Cor Van Raay to Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge back in 2014.
Students will be able to earn an AEM diploma from Lethbridge College and have the option to continue into a Bachelor of Management degree program with an AEM major at the University of Lethbridge.
David Hill, the director of development for the programming between Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge, says this new programming does more than just fill a gap identified by the agri-food industry in Southern Alberta.
"By focusing on the business and management side of a rapidly-changing global agri-food industry, students in the program will be prepared to be business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs," he continued. "The programming will ensure that students in Southern Alberta have the globally-relevant skillsets required to significantly increase the value to the primary production economy through advanced approaches to agri-business, agri-tech, agri-finance and agri-trade."
The AEM program is different from the college's long-running Agriculture Sciences program because it focuses on the business and management decision-making aspects of the agri-food sector, from primary production through the food supply chain, to the consumer.
Mandy Gabruch has been hired as the first AEM instructor.
Gabruch grew up fixing fences and checking cows on her family's ranch near Consul, Saskatchewan, before attaining a master's degree in Agricultural Economics at the University of Saskatchewan.
She believes the biggest draw factor for this program is its scope.
"Students are going to have an opportunity to learn about a wide range of subject areas related to agriculture and business. I think it provides a really excellent starting point especially for those students who don't exactly know what they want to do with their careers yet because they'll have the opportunity to explore a lot of topics and find out what speaks to them," Gabruch said.
Gabruch plans to draw upon a knowledge base that includes experience in hands-on production, research and economic analysis.
"Given my background, I appreciate the need to see how theory applies in the real world, so I have been working hard to create classes that do just that," she continued. "In the first year of the program, students will take a variety of general business, agricultural production, economics and management classes, and then we will build on this knowledge foundation to develop a deeper understanding of the issues faced by agribusinesses in western Canada."
Gabruch says students will come away from this program with technical skills, as well as the capacity to apply higher-level thinking to how current issues in policy and trade will affect their businesses and industry.
"The goal of this program is to foster the ability for students to see the relationship between ever-changing global dynamics and the bottom line for agricultural enterprises," she stated.
Lethbridge College also announced that applications for the program are now being accepted for fall 2018.
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