Ag-Tech program draws students in northeast Ark.

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JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - There are more than 20 programmable computers on a tractor.

It is a new aspect of mechanics for Westside senior Ryan Vickers. While he understands basic mechanic work, Vickers said he is ready to learn more about how to work with electronics and diesel engines.

It is one of the reasons the 17-year-old signed up for the five-year Greenway/John Deere Ag-Tech program.

“I like this program because it seemed like a good program and something I could learn from,” Vickers said. “It’s really interesting to me because it is not just tractors but other small engines.”

The program guarantees participants a three-year placement with Greenway Equipment if they complete a two-year study at Arkansas State University in Beebe. Scholarships are given for the studies which combine classroom and laboratory work with summer internships.

With agriculture equipment becoming more advanced, Bobby Humes with Greenway Equipment said the program helps train newcomers to the industry.

“It is highly technical so we are looking for young people who understand technology,” Humes said.

Humes introduced the program to about 40 of Vickers‘ classmates at the Northeast Arkansas Career and Technical Center recently. The center’s automotive service technology instructor, Leslie Warr, said it shows his students, who all have an agriculture background, another job avenue since it links the auto industry to agriculture.

The average entry-level technician can expect to earn $35,000 to $45,000 per year with benefits.

It is the first time Humes has visited the center, but both Humes and Warr said it won’t be the last.

Greenway also plans to donate a used diesel power unit for students to practice with.

“The practice will help students become a step ahead of others,” Humes said. “It’s important to us to get these men and women in the program who understand the technology out there. It is so rapidly changing, it is hard to keep up with it.”

The program looks for students whose are skilled in mechanics, computers as well as communicating and working with other people. It will accept 20 students for the upcoming fall semester and has a 97 percent retention rate.

Cody Brosmore, a 2005 Westside graduate, completed the program about four years ago and is a master service technician with Greenway’s Jonesboro location.

“I’ve been around farm equipment all my life,” said Brosmore, the 2010 Employee of the Year. “I enjoyed working on machinery and had a buddy working here at the time.”

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