|The FFA Sentinel|
|The FFA Sentinel|
Today’s agriscience education program is more than a "class" for which a student may enroll. It is a total educational approach that includes instruction, FFA and SAE. Instruction includes the classroom and laboratory, which might consists of greenhouse and an agricultural mechanics shop. Here students receive instruction from their agriscience teacher in a traditional classroom setting, but at other times the class will be much more "hands-on" and tied to the "real world."
FFA is the organization for students who are studying agriscience education. There are numerous agriscience areas, and they are all part of the FFA. In FFA, students practice what they have learned in the classroom and laboratory as well as real-life situations. Through these experiences, students develop leadership skills, preparation for career success and experience personal growth.
The SAE is a hands-on agriscience program that a student creates and carries out. It gives the student a chance to explore the areas of agriscience that interest them. The chosen SAE can be based on anything that relates to agriculture, such as an agriscience research project, starting one’s own business or working in wildlife management.
Once a student becomes an FFA member, a decision is made about what kind of work they like or don’t like. This decision helps them determine what type of SAE they intend to choose. Through classroom instruction students learn about the hundreds of careers and how to prepare for them. FFA members will also develop skills that put them a step ahead towards career success, whether they begin working after high school or pursue further education.
Agriscience teachers stress that agriculture is farming and a whole lot more. The agricultural industry is the nation’s largest employer with jobs in agriculture and its related fields comprising close to 21 percent of all jobs. Production agriculture is the solid foundation for all agriculture-related careers, but only eight percent of all agricultural jobs are in production agriculture. The remaining 92 percent consists of social service professionals at 10 percent; scientists, engineers and related professionals at 29 percent; managers and financial specialists at 12 percent; and education and communication at 10 percent. And, there are often more job openings than there are qualified graduates to fill them. That means agriculture offers countless opportunities for career success.
To an FFA member hundreds of career choices may seem overwhelming, and rightfully so, but agricultural careers (those related to SAEs) can be grouped into six agricultural career clusters: agricultural and forestry production is working with land, crops, animals, plants, flowers and trees; management and financial specialties ensures a healthy bottom line for American agriculture; marketing, merchandising and sales is matching customer needs to products and services; science and engineering is addressing environmental challenges and assuring a safe, nutritious and economical food supply; social services is improving the lives of agriculturalists and their communities; and education and communication is sharing information and hands-on skills.
From the six agricultural career clusters that FFA members have to choose from, their SAE is divided into four basic types: exploratory, research/experimentation and analysis, ownership/entrepreneurship, and placement.
An exploratory SAE is where beginning FFA members learn about the "big picture" of agriculture and its numerous related careers. Exploration will enable students to choose to further develop their preferred type of SAE.
For a SAE in research/experimentation and analysis, FFA members would conduct research or analyze information in order to discover new knowledge. Since agriculture is a science-based industry, members expanding their agriscience skills position themselves to enter a variety of agricultural career areas.
Ownership/entrepreneurship SAEs is where an FFA member becomes a business owner. There are two related areas. The first one is owning and/or operating an agricultural-related business where any agricultural product is produced. The other area is providing an agricultural-related service like machinery maintenance, lawn care or creating a cooperative with other FFA members to grow and sell agricultural products.
Placement SAEs is where an FFA member works for someone else, either for pay or for the experience. The job or internship might be on a farm, an agricultural business, and school laboratory or community facility. The SAE work is done outside of the normal classroom hours. Students must keep records of the number of work hours, types of responsibilities and, if paid, how much was earned.
SAEs are how FFA members are able to earn the four major degrees of active FFA membership. (In addition to SAE requirements there are other qualifications a member must meet in order to obtain the degree.) The first degree is greenhand. A member must have satisfactory plans for a SAE. The chapter degree is the second degree that can be earned. Through his/her SAE a member must have earned or productively invested at least $150 by his/her own efforts, or worked at least 45 hours in excess of scheduled class time, or a combination thereof, and have developed plans for continued growth and improvement in his/her SAE.
The state degree is the highest degree a member may earn at the state level. Through the SAE, a member must have earned or productively invested $1,000 or worked at least 300 hours in excess of scheduled class time in a SAE. The American degree is the only degree a member may earn on the national level. Through his/her SAE a member must have earned or productively invested at least $7,500 or have earned and productively invested at least $1,500 and worked 2,250 hours in excess of scheduled class time.
SAEs provide FFA members an opportunity to select a career that interests them as well as one that is unique to their given location and personality. There are also several learning situations applied to SAEs like record keeping, practicing skills learned in agriscience class and making decisions either through experience or by assistance from parents or other adults that can enable them to enter life with confidence and proficiency in their chosen vocation.
Philip Paramore is an Education Specialist with the Alabama Department of Education.