Equipment Ontario welcomes LDSS High Skills Major class

·5 min read

LISTOWEL – Grades 11 and 12 students from Listowel District Secondary School’s (LDSS) High Skills Major class spent the day visiting several businesses in the area, including Equipment Ontario, to learn about applications of computer technology in various areas of the ag sector and also aspects of safety training.

Head of Cooperative Education, Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program Coordinator/Agriculture SHSM Program Lead John (JD) Kuepfer said, “This community has been exceptionally generous in supporting LDSS programs and opportunities for students. With the easing of pandemic restrictions, we feel we will soon be able to hit our stride in providing a strong ag program option for our school that is built on getting out into the community to connect students with the experts.”

The students visited the North Perth Fire Department and Trillium Mutual Insurance before arriving at Equipment Ontario, where they were treated to a barbecue lunch after they toured the facility; then, they went on to County Line Equipment and Premier Equipment to continue exploring their options for co-op or scholarships in the ag industry.

Bryan Long, service manager at Equipment Ontario, led the tour, answering questions and providing more information to the students about what it would take to become an employee at the family-owned and operated business.

“Stoltz Sales and Service was started in 1978 in Listowel by the Stoltz family and expanded to stores in Elmira and Mildmay,” Long said. “Last year we merged with Hub International in Port Perry and Lyndsay and owned by the Snodden family. Together we formed Equipment Ontario.”

Long, who has been with the company for 22 years, spoke about how much the company values education.

“The Stoltz family have always been champions for education, the high school co-op program and the apprenticeship program. We believe in growing and training our own apprentices and technicians and taking the time that is needed because we know from experience there is value there.”

He went on to talk about how they know how to train and mentor their apprentices to have a successful career, highlighting that experience in the ag business is not necessary to work with them, telling the students that doing well in school is one of the things they look for when considering new apprentices.

“If someone is hard working, dedicated and mechanically inclined, we can give you what you need to succeed as an agricultural equipment technician,” added Long. “I believe we are the most underrated trade there is.

“There are less farming background kids that want to be ag techs and anyone without a farming background doesn’t think they have the experience to even apply.”

Long highlighted the many careers available besides service technicians, for instance, “Advanced Farming Systems or AFS, parts, sales, accounting, marketing, and administration, to name a few,” he said.

Speaking about the unique opportunities that Equipment Ontario offers, besides what Skilled Trades Ontario provides, Long said, “If some are willing to invest in us, we are willing to invest in them and give them the tools to succeed in agriculture.

“To show our dedication to the Apprentices and the Apprenticeship program, we started the Equipment Ontario Scholarship… Apprentices will have full tuition coverage, unemployment pay while in school, mileage or housing assistance while in school, tool discounts and up to $1,500 in tool bonus per school term depending on GPA and a supportive environment to learn and grow your skills.

“We are very proud to say that almost every technician in our shops has completed their apprenticeship program with us.”

One of the tour’s highlights was the discussion about precision farming, a method of agriculture that uses technological innovations, including GPS guidance, drones, sensors, soil sampling, and precision machinery, to grow crops more efficiently than traditional methods.

Precision farming specialists Isaac Wall and Kyle Seaton showed the students how they monitor, troubleshoot, and use the power of data to manage individual pieces of land, among the many other innovative things the art of precision farming entails.

After the tour, Grade 11 student Phil Beuerman, who has already done some co-op with a John Deere dealership, spoke with the Listowel Banner.

“I thought it was quite educational,” he said. “Going from co-op at a John Deere dealership to coming here and seeing how Case does things a little different has been interesting.”

Beuerman said the mechanics and the diagnostics are slightly different, which he thought was quite interesting.

Beuerman was impressed by the opportunities that come with an apprenticeship with Equipment Ontario: “I’m quite interested in all of the scholarships and all the money they give away if you sign up for an apprenticeship,” he said. “It’s a lot more than where I’m doing co-op right now than what they give.”

While he prefers where he is now, “If they give you more and they want you more, then it is what it is.”

Devin Johnston, also a Grade 11 student, comes from an agricultural background and knows quite a bit already about precision farming; he said, “It’s a nice refresher and nice to see what other brands have to offer.”

Several students plan to continue their agricultural training after high school in various avenues; some of the female attendees said they were looking into animal sciences at the University of Guelph, but the outing was still very informative.

Kayla King is already doing her co-op placement at Midwestern Farm Equipment. After that, she is planning on apprenticing as an agricultural technician.

“It was good to see some variety and how much agriculture has expanded into more of a tech way,” said King.

Industries like Equipment Ontario are changing the landscape of farming in Ontario and need students like these to continue with the advanced technical wonders that provide the agricultural sector with many benefits.

Farmers can grow more, healthier crops and increase the economic viability of their farms in an environmentally better way, croplife.ca states.

“For Canadians today, this all contributes to greater food availability and keeps food costs affordable. In the long term, precision agriculture is helping to nurture and protect farm land so that it remains productive in 20-, 50- and 100-years’ time.”

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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