The value of Seward County Community College’s agriculture department was evident when Skyland Grain made a donation to the college.
The Johnson, Kansas-based company reached out to award SCCC $2,000 in hopes of creating a pipeline to bring future employees to its company and the agriculture industry in general.
“Our main goal is to get more youth in agriculture,” said Aaron Murphy, relationship manager at Skyland Grain. “We’re hoping that things like this can enhance the Ag Department at Seward County Community College and bring those kids in and help the whole industry and feed a pipeline of new hires to Skyland.”
While Skyland had a presence among four-year universities, it was lacking with community colleges.
“We started focusing on talent and community colleges,” Murphy said. “We’ve been to the four-year university, but we didn’t focus on the community colleges enough. We need those kind of people to come out to work and have the good work ethnic and we’re finding them in the rural areas.”
SCCC Ag Instructors Nick Noterman and Joshua Morris were grateful about receiving the funds and looked forward to working with Skyland in the future.
“Skyland Grain reached out to us,” Noterman said. “They emailed Josh and me, and wanted to meet with us and so we met last fall. They basically had some ideas they wanted to work with the Ag Department to build some internship opportunities and so forth. That’s how it started. We went up to their main office in Johnson and they said ‘we have some money we want you to have’ and we said “OK.’”
“Some of the projects we want to develop [are designed to] get more kids involved in agriculture, and Skyland was willing to support that,” Morris added.
Murphy also believed that SCCC would be a good fit geographically for Skyland.
“We have a lot of locations in Southwest Kansas, Southeast Colorado and the Oklahoma Panhandle,” Murphy said, adding that with locations in the area, new hires would be closer to home and be more attractive in terms of job opportunities. “We have a program similar to this out east so we figured we needed something out here to fill the gap.”
A partnership between Skyland and SCCC is an important step in keeping the agriculture industry vital, said Dr. Todd Carter, vice president of academic affairs at SCCC.
“It is getting to be a real challenge for the agriculture industry to find qualified workers,” Carter said. “It’s only through this type of partnership between the industry and Seward County Community College that we can develop that pipeline that’s so important for filling those jobs.”