By DeLoss Jahnke
The National FFA Organization celebrated the launch of the Agricultural Career Network (AgCN) on Dec. 15, 2011. The network is a nationwide system designed to help FFA members document their educational achievements, create robust portfolios and pursue scholarship and employment opportunities. Now that the system is up and running, FFA encourages students and advisors to begin entering information into the network.
Mark Cavell, the organization’s director of information technology, says the best way to learn about the network is to dig in and get started. “The student pages, with the exception of the supervised agricultural experience record book data elements, are complete. The ability to start tracking and historically add data is all there. We encourage students to get in early. The more people that are in, and the more people that are using it, will give us the tools and the data to continue to develop the network.
“The process for handling membership, we believe, is far more streamlined,” Cavell continues. “An advisor can process their membership much, much faster than they ever could in PeopleSoft, primarily because we’re moving the responsibility for data entry directly to the students.”
Providing feedback about the network is as simple as contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Cavell welcomes comments to ensure that the network operates as effectively as possible.
Students and advisors across the country are starting to use the network. Chip Blanton, advisor at Fort Payne High School in northeast Alabama, is excited about the possibilities the network provides.
“I think this may be the best thing I have seen for student career help and FFA tracking,” says Blanton, who has taught agricultural education for 36 years. “My kids really were excited about the possibilities it opened.”
These possibilities include the benefits that come with such a streamlined membership process. “When it’s time to apply for scholarships or other recognition, the bulk of the data is already there,” Cavell says. “The not-so-obvious piece of this is, as data is entered and as time goes on, the network should be able to alert students to opportunities they may not know about. It could proactively suggest to students, based on their activities and accomplishments, that they are eligible for awards and recognition opportunities. So the network can help keep students engaged.”
Cavell believes AgCN will be a “game changer” for the organization for a variety of reasons. “One, to provide this level at no charge to the chapter, we think, is a pretty big deal. On the back end, for all of our stakeholders, the ability to report data on what students are doing, where their interests are, what their economic impact is…it should be incredible for not just national, but for states, for chapters and for sponsors.”
Blanton, who received his Honorary American FFA Degree in 2005, agrees.
“I think this will be something all advisors and students will be able to put to good use. It’s great to have something that really will be a help to everyone.”