There’s no denying 2020 has been a trying year for many people. But for 127 employees of Canadian farm, industrial and outdoor power equipment dealers, there was some good news this year.
These 127 employees are recipients of the Canada Equipment Dealers Foundation (CEDF) 2020 scholarships, and the funds they received helped them in what has become a very tough year. According to Dereck Generous, one of the scholarship recipients who works at Young’s Equipment in Chamberlain, Sask., the scholarship funds help he and his family when he is away at school and having to rent accommodation.
“Every little bit helps when you’ve got children at home and you’ve got expenses that need to be handled when you’re not working,” said Generous, who is in the agricultural equipment technician program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Saskatoon.
Solomon Dobbie with Premier Equipment in Mount Forest, Ont., added the funding benefits more than just himself. “Premier will benefit from this scholarship, as well as the farm whose piece of equipment I am working on, because this scholarship will help me with ensuring I have the right tools to keep the farmer going up and down the fields.”
Dobbie, enrolled in the agricultural equipment technician program at Fanshawe College in London, Ont., said he’s always been interested in agriculture. “We grew up in a small rural community. Going to the neighbours always meant I could go for a tractor ride; this was the highlight to my day back when I was younger,” he noted. “After either working on the farms or just helping out the neighbouring farmers through my high school days, I stayed involved in agriculture. After spending countless hours driving farm machinery, I always wondered how things worked and that’s why I joined the Premier team – to further understand what all happens behind a closed hood or panel on farm machinery.”
Since 1998, CEDF scholarships have provided funding to assist in the training, re-training, or advancement of employees or potential employees of Canadian farm, industrial and outdoor power equipment dealers. The funding is meant to improve and develop the individuals’ business and professional capabilities, to enhance the opportunities for individuals to find employment or to advance their employment within the industry, and to create a larger pool of qualified, committed, long-term employees for dealerships.
Bryan Braun, manager of human capital at Pattison Agriculture, said encouraging the company’s apprentices to apply for CEDF scholarships is important to them. “We believe this is a way to recognize their hard work in their journey to journeyperson status, and we will support them financially as they educate themselves. We value learning and training at Pattison Agriculture,” he said.
“We all live in a fast-paced changing society with many demands at work, home, and in our personal lives. In order for staff to keep up with their roles, we actively promote training for all of our employees. For the scholarship recipients, they are relatively new to their roles and benefit greatly from the education they receive as a part of their training.”
Braun added that with a more educated staff, they are able to support their customers more effectively. “When we have satisfied customers, we have a better chance to be able to continue to serve them. The more capacity we have to serve customers, the more we are able to grow our business and employ more young technicians.”
To apply for the CEDF scholarship program, employees must be approved by a dealer principal for training, re-training or professional advancement. The employee or potential employee must be enrolled and accepted in a higher education curriculum, which is approved by the dealer principal as training applicable to the dealership’s needs. Scholarship recipients must be enrolled full-time in the approved course of study. The dealer principal must also be willing to provide matching funds and must be a current member of Western Equipment Dealers Association (WEDA).
Todd Sevrens, general manager of operations at Douglas Lake Equipment, said the scholarship program offers his staff the chance to continue to train and improve their skillset. “As technology continues to advance at an increasing rate, and our manufacturers continue to develop products that challenge our technicians, we are continuously trying to place accountability on building skills and challenging knowledge,” he said. “This is what customers expect, too.”
“Through scholarships such as what WEDA and others provide, that are in turn coupled with our own in-house employee training reimbursement and support program, we achieve employee satisfaction ratings that are good, employee tenure goes up and quality of work for improved customer satisfaction is achieved.”
Steve Roberts, a scholarship recipient and employee with Douglas Lake Equipment in Dawson Creek, B.C., said his interest in the agriculture industry started when he decided to switch careers. “I’ve always liked working on mechanical things and decided to switch careers into a heavy-duty technician role,” said Roberts, who is studying as a heavy-duty equipment technician at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John, B.C. “I wanted something with a lot of variety, and agriculture equipment provides that; from old equipment right up to the newest auto-guidance machines.”
Tim Young, general manager with Young’s Equipment, said they always encourage their staff to apply for the CEDF scholarship. “We feel it is a tangible acknowledgement of their effort and commitment to personal improvement,” he noted. “Positive reinforcement is important throughout an individual’s training. To become the best in class in any profession requires a commitment to continuous improvement. Our industry is changing quickly and if you are not improving then you are being left behind.”
Travis Block, an employee at Young’s equipment, received a scholarship this year. As an apprentice agricultural equipment technician, he is part way through fourth-level training, and he said the funds helped him during the financial strain of making his way through the trade while having a young family. “My wonderful wife, three-year-old and seven-month-old have been a great encouragement to me. They have sacrificed a lot in my pursuit of my career,” he said. “I cannot remember not having an interest in agriculture. It took me 15 years after high school to pursue a technician position and I love it. Young’s Equipment has been a great employer. They have been courteous to my family’s needs in a huge way.”
Annie Dyck and Carter Hancock, both with Pattison Agriculture, agree with Block when it comes to the support they receive from their employer. “School can get pretty expensive, especially when I’m not making a wage for the time I’m away at school,” noted Dyck who is in her second year in the John Deere heavy-duty agriculture technician program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. “It’s a lot of saving, and preparation. When I heard about this WEDA scholarship through my work, I thought it would be a perfect way to help pay for the extra costs of school and it was, and still is. I feel that it gave me that extra support while I was unemployed.”
For Hancock, the funding – and training – offered by the scholarship and Pattison Agriculture is second-to-none. “The scholarship will help me in the future by having less cost during the schooling term, helping to save money with living in a different city and having all the costs that go with it,” said Hancock, who is studying to become a certified red seal agriculture equipment technician at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. “Constantly having to buy and expand the tools that are needed for the job is getting increasingly expensive, so having less cost to worry about helps tremendously.”
Brian Verbuyst, product support manager with Premier Equipment, said Dobbie is just one of many employees the dealership has helped support over the years. “We promote (CEDF scholarship) to all our apprentices each year. We send out the information in February with a follow-up reminder to apply in March,” he said.
“We strongly believe in the apprenticeship program and want to support our techs in any way we can, and this provides another way of us helping them achieve their goals. This industry is rapidly changing. The better we educate our employees, the better we can service our customers.”
Written by Janet Kanters
Janet Kanters is a national award-winning writer, editor and photographer who has covered agricultural production, technology and business topics for over 25 years.