Agricultural Career Network strengthens student achievement and builds future employees for agriculture

After months of planning, research and testing and countless production hours, the National FFA Organization has launched the Agricultural Career Network (AgCN). AgCN went live in December and has put the organization on the road to strengthening student achievement and meeting the human capital needs of agriculture. It will also enhance the value of the FFA experience for members, drive program improvement and build a growing base of support for agricultural education. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect from AgCN.

Objectives of AgCN
The initial focus of AgCN is to improve the quality, service and impact of the National FFA. It will provide the data, tools and direction necessary to deliver results to customers and assist in assessing the organization’s performance. A critical component of this framework is an integrated technology platform of portal and stakeholder relationship management tools. These work hand-in-glove with the other dimensions of financial stewardship, assessments, communications and brand management.

AgCN will:

  • Demonstrate the impact and relevance of FFA and agricultural education.
  • Build lifelong relationships with students, educators and alumni.
  • Generate opportunities for members.
  • Help members document their personal achievements.
  • Create interactive communication channels.
  • Deliver world-class service to chapters and state associations.
  • Build strong advocacy networks.
  • Enhance the transparency and accountability of National FFA.

The components of AgCN

Member services
National FFA provides services to student members that allow them to chart a course and track their accomplishments within agricultural education and FFA. AgCN will include the basic membership system as well as award and recognition applications. Students will enter information when they join. The system will then track their awards and accomplishments in a student portfolio. Member services will also include an FFA e-store, email services and social networking. If a member doesn’t have an email address, they can get a free one from Gmail, Yahoo or another email provider. The network will allow members to use their portfolio information to build resumes, apply for scholarships, prepare for college, locate internships and apply for jobs. FFA will expand job postings on AgCN and continue to provide general web content on www.ffa.org.

Student portfolios
Student portfolios will contain all of a student’s activities and accomplishments within FFA and agricultural education, including:

  • Classroom instruction (certifications, proficiencies obtained, STEM results, LifeKnowledge assessments and academic records).
  • Leadership development (all FFA activities, degrees earned, awards and recognition received and events attended).
  • Experiential learning and supervised agricultural experiences (internships, service projects, community services and any global experiences through FFA).

Electronic record keeping
Many versions of stand-alone electronic record books are offered through several prominent vendors. FFA will work with them to ensure information tracked through AgCN will translate to the electronic record books.

  • These record keeping programs are SAE-based, and they provide additional demographic information that is valuable to the organization and our stakeholders.
  • Vendors may work with individual state FFA associations to customize the record keeping programs for state activities.
  • These record books are valuable in degree and application preparation.
  • FFA will create one standardized data interface that will work with the most prevalent vendor applications that already exist.

Adult portfolios
Adult groups will also benefit from the comprehensive network of systems in AgCN:

  • Teachers can access personal development and training tools.
  • Collegiate students can track accomplishments.
  • FFA Alumni can manage membership and volunteers at local, state and national levels.
  • Other groups will have specific portfolios they can access.

Stakeholder access
Stakeholders will have limited, role-based access to information within the network. In other words, agricultural education-related organizations, state supervisory staff, FFA advisors, school administrators, parents, secondary education institutions and employers can post their information for students to review. This provides:

  • Verification the information was collected by FFA.
  • Valuable aggregate information.

The benefits of AgCN

Student benefits
Students will benefit from access to other FFA members and subject experts through social media and other networks. They will have the ability to:

  • Document their FFA and agricultural education experiences, including SAE accomplishments.
  • Access FFA products and programs.
  • Use their student portfolios to help construct college applications and build a resume.
  • Find and apply for academic and employment opportunities.

State leader and teacher benefits
Teachers and state leaders will save valuable time and be able to access the documented FFA activities of all their students. This will provide:

  • Key data for Perkins plans and reports.
  • Data for grant applications.
  • Tools to demonstrate agricultural education relevance and impact to administrators and school boards.
  • Ability to build strong advocacy networks.

FFA program benefits
The National FFA and individual FFA programs will benefit from operational efficiencies and better connections with students and teachers. This will provide:

  • Mission-based results to help develop and refine FFA programs and services.
  • The ability to assess student engagement and impact.

Post-secondary institution benefits
Colleges, technical schools and universities can benefit from:

  • Better knowledge about and access to FFA members.
  • Direct communication links for student recruitment.
  • Data to formulate articulation agreements between secondary and post-secondary schools.

Agriculture and foundation sponsor benefits
Agriculture and the National FFA Foundation sponsors will benefit from:

  • Direct connections to a large potential employee base.
  • Better communication about career choices and their company, products and services.

The demonstrated impact documented by this network will help secure and justify sponsorships.

Parent benefits
Parents will have the ability to view their child’s progress during the educational process. They can also be better educated on academic and employment opportunities for their child.

Local community benefits
Local community businesses can have access to aggregate information about the talent and accomplishments of their young citizens. This will help them:

  • Create relationships with students to help bind them to the community.
  • Communicate opportunities and advantages for building local careers and contributing to local economic development.
  • Strengthen the local agricultural sector.

For more information about the development and functionality of AgCN, contact Mark Cavell, director, information technology division, mcavell@ffa.org.

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