One occupational area that has increasingly high demand for new workers is pest control advising (also known as PCA) within the field of plant science. In California especially, the industry is facing a severe shortage of PCAs. Roughly 40 percent of the state’s 4,000 PCAs will retire by 2015, creating an immediate need for at least 1,600 new PCAs to serve the 80,500 farms and ranches in California.
What do PCAs do?
PCAs are crop consultants that help agriculture and horticulture producers develop pest management and production solutions to protect crop and livestock health. They offer recommendations concerning pest management materials, land preparation, planting, fertilization, irrigation, cultivating and harvesting.
In order to resolve the PCA workforce shortage and help more young people see potential in this high-wage, in-demand field, community colleges across the state have been working to develop PCA Preparation Programs that can prepare students to become licensed PCAs in approximately two years. This certificate program is part of a statewide initiative led by California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office’s Doing What Matters For Jobs and the Economy division to create a new generation of licensed PCA professionals.
Located in Northern California, Shasta College is one of the first institutions to launch the program.
“PCA is one brightest career paths and promising employment opportunities in agriculture today,” said Eva Jimenez, Shasta College Dean of Business, Agriculture, Industry & Technology. “With the job concerns of young people today, we are prioritizing skilled-based programs that provide a direct path into high employment fields.”
Shasta College’s PCA program requires the completion of 42 semester units of core courses that include 12 units of physical, biological and natural sciences; nine units of crop health; six units of pest management systems; six units of agriculture production systems; and another nine units of elective agriculture courses of the student’s choosing. The program also requires students to complete 24 months of work experience where they receive technical job training assisting a regional business that has partnered with Shasta College to provide paid internships.
Once students complete the program’s course and work experience portions, they will be qualified to take the PCA licensing exam mandated and administered by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
“With extensive fieldwork training and the opportunity to build relationships with local businesses, the program offers students an actual taste of what their future career will look like,” said Leimone Waite, Horticulture Instructor at Shasta College and UC Master Gardener Coordinator for Shasta County. “As we educate young people about modern agriculture, they are realizing there is more to the field than just farming. There are many linear disciplines in the support, production and trade of agriculture that offer many rewarding days working outdoors and high paying career paths.”
In addition to working directly with agriculture suppliers, PCAs are highly sought after by government agencies, distributors, retailers and pesticide manufacturing companies, earning salaries ranging from $45,000 to more than $100,000 annually.
Greg O’Sullivan is the deputy sector navigator of agriculture, water and environmental technology for California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office’s Doing What Matters For Jobs and the Economy division.