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Shasta College prepares CA students for high-wage, in-demand careers in $44 billion agriculture industry

Shasta College student, Adam Myers, investigates mealy bugs on a bird of paradise as part of the program's hands-on training.
Shasta College student, Adam Myers, investigates mealy bugs on a bird of paradise as part of the program's hands-on training.
This spring, Shasta College has kicked off the highly anticipated Pest Control Advisor (PCA) Preparation Program that will prepare students to become licensed PCAs in approximately two years.
 
According to the California Association of Pest Control Advisors, 40 percent of California’s 4,000 PCAs will retire by 2015, creating an immediate need for 1,600 new PCAs to serve the 80,500 farms and ranches in the state. Shasta College’s new certificate program is part of a statewide initiative led by California Community Colleges’ Doing What Matters For Jobs and the Economy program to resolve this shortage and create a new generation of licensed PCA professionals in California.
 
“Shasta College has been a regional leader in guiding students toward exciting, lucrative careers in agriculture and saw the PCA field as a great opportunity to provide students another promising career option in an industry that is a key economic driver in our region,” said Eva Jimenez, Shasta College Dean of Business, Agriculture, Industry & Technology. “PCA is one brightest careers paths and promising employment opportunities in agriculture today. With the job concerns of young people today, we are prioritizing skilled-based programs that provide a direct path into high employment fields.”
 
PCAs are crop consultants that help agriculture and horticulture producers develop pest management and production solutions to protect crop and livestock health. They offer recommendations concerning pest management materials, land preparation, planting, fertilization, irrigation, cultivating and harvesting. In addition to working directly with agriculture suppliers, PCAs are highly sought after by government agencies, distributors, retailers and pesticide manufacturing companies, earning salaries ranging from $45,000 to more than $100,000 annually.
 
Shasta College’s PCA program requires the completion of 42 semester units of core courses that include 12 units of physical, biological and natural sciences; nine units of crop health; six units of pest management systems; six units of agriculture production systems; and another nine units of elective agriculture courses of the student’s choosing. The program also requires students to complete 24 months of work experience where they receive technical job training assisting a regional business that has partnered with Shasta College to provide paid internships. As an additional opportunity for hands-on experience early on, students will also care for and treat the campus’ garden, which regularly supplies the cafeteria with vegetables.
 
“With extensive fieldwork training and the opportunity to build relationships with local businesses, the program offers students an actual taste of what their future career will look like,” said Leimone Waite, Horticulture Instructor at Shasta College and UC Master Gardener Coordinator for Shasta County. “As we educate young people about modern agriculture, they are realizing there is more to the field than just farming. There are many linear disciplines in the support, production and trade of agriculture that offer many rewarding days working outdoors and high paying prestigious career paths.”
 
Once students complete the program’s course and work experience portions, they will be qualified to take the PCA licensing exam mandated and administered by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation. Shasta College’s PCA program satisfies one of three educational options required by the department. Other state qualifications for the exam require a bachelor’s or doctorate degree in the field. Community college certificate programs with curriculums focused heavily on work experience were recently added as a third option. The community college option provides students more job training experience and is more cost effective. Once the program is completed, students have the option of working or continuing their education.

For more information on this program, contact Horticulture Instructor Leimone Waite at lwaite@shastacollege.edu or call her at 530-242-2210. 

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