The United States federal government anticipates significant workforce shortages soon for the food, agriculture and natural resources industries, and faculty members from Missouri S&T are part of nationwide effort to address the issue.
Over the next five years, Missouri S&T is expected to receive $1.25 million from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s program titled “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals.”
The total amount provided to all participating universities for this program will be $262.5 million, with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 serving as the funding source. The funds S&T will receive come from the $10 million awarded to Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. Lincoln University is leading a consortium of institutions focused on the issue.
Dr. Hu Yang, S&T’s principal investigator for the project, says S&T’s grant was officially awarded this summer, and he expects several initiatives to launch soon.
“It is vital that several universities come together and work to train and inspire the next generation of agricultural workers,” says Yang, S&T’s Doshi Endowed Chair of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. “We look forward to working with underrepresented populations and helping them develop the skills and experiences necessary to keep the workforce running and thriving in the future.”
Yang says S&T will have multiple focus areas for the project, including precision agriculture, which uses information technology to help manage crops.
Students – both current and those recruited through the program – will be trained on nanomaterial technology applications in precision agriculture. This topic will cover data analytics so students can understand how to best use available resources in farming.
Students will also learn about how drones can be used for precision agriculture. This will be taught in a hybrid course, which will require students to complete some work online and some in the field — and in the air.
Another topic will be carbon capture and sequestration. Missouri S&T is considered a national leader in this field, and students can learn how it affects farming.
The university will also host several outreach activities to train potential students and recruit them for S&T’s degree programs.
“So much of this work will be hands-on, which is important for agricultural workforce development,” Yang says. “We plan to have workshops, potentially fund some students’ courses and research, and provide them with some fantastic internships and experiential learning opportunities.
“Missouri S&T has always been a leader in workforce development, and we are happy to provide our expertise and resources to support such an important federal initiative.”
Yang’s co-PIs at Missouri S&T are Dr. Honglan Shi, research professor emeritus of chemistry, Dr. Paul Nam, associate professor of chemistry, Dr. Katherine Grote, associate professor of geological engineering; Dr. Jeremy Maurer, assistant professor of geological engineering; and Dr. Fateme Rezaei, Doshi Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.
Central State University and Texas A&M are also partner institutions for the project.
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students located in Rolla, Missouri. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System, Missouri S&T offers over 100 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top public universities for salary impact, according to the Wall Street Journal. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.