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Prairie Innovation Centre Building on Manitoba’s Agricultural Past

The northeast view of the college's future Prairie Innovation Centre

Before we presented the Prairie Innovation Centre for Sustainable Agriculture to the public, we did our homework, following the path laid out by educational predecessors more than 100 years ago.

Turning the dial in our time machine back to the year 1900, we’d observe the Manitoba Government appoint the Agricultural College Commission to report on the suitability of establishing an agricultural college in Manitoba. After many consultations with educational authorities and citizens of note, their report spoke to the shortage of high-quality agricultural education available.

After a unanimous decision to establish such an entity, the Manitoba Agricultural College opened in 1906 to educate students in modern farming practices. The first college of its kind in Western Canada, and only the third in all of Canada, it delivered courses in horticulture, agricultural engineering, animal husbandry, farm management and home economics. (Manitoba Historical Society)

Fast forward to the present, Assiniboine Community College has proudly picked up the mantle as Manitoba’s agricultural college, offering a high-quality agricultural education to those entering the agricultural industry or carrying on a generational love of the land.

The result of our own consultations highlighted the need for more graduates and new programs that echoed the technical advancements agriculture has undergone.

We know that one in five jobs in the agriculture industry will go unfilled in Manitoba by 2029. A shortage of skilled workers is causing a reduced profitability and an inability to reach our full economic potential.

The conversation around jobs and workers often doesn’t give enough credit to agriculture as an innovative, career-oriented industry. At Assiniboine we view our programs—existing and future—as career and economic builders. We are not only filling needed opportunities, we are advancing chosen professions.

Current programs in our School of Agriculture and Environment are designed to convey the specific knowledge needed for a career. Programs such as Agribusiness, Land & Water Management, Food Processing, Sustainable Food Systems, and Civil Technology are examples of specific skills.

The Prairie Innovation Centre will introduce programs that will increase career opportunities. These programs include Automation and Robotics (Mechatronics), Food Science Technology, Chemical Technology plus Bachelor of Commerce in Agribusiness.

An area of education that is important to the advancement of agriculture is Assiniboine’s agriculture extension programs. From delivery of Manitoba’s pesticide certification program for all commercial pesticide applicators to the Dietary Aide Document of Achievement, our programs are responsive to the requests of industry. Our goal is to provide timely, hands-on learning to those who have worked in the agriculture sector for many years or those just starting their career. Programs are delivered by distance, in-person, online or through blended delivery and range from workshops, micro-credentials and certificates that can be fully customized. Future programming will focus on addressing specific labour market needs including agriculture data literacy, swine production and agriculture fundamentals for those new to the agricultural sector.

To assist in the continual development and evaluation of programs and advise on changes in the labour market, the college establishes program advisory committees comprised of industry representatives and college staff. These committees provide advice on improving and advancing the skills needed now and into the future for the success of students and the agricultural sector. It’s expected that once the Prairie Innovation Centre and its programs, existing and new, are up and running, there will be more than 150 industry experts sitting on these committees, regularly engaging and providing program advice to the college.

The Prairie Innovation Centre will allow our existing and future programs in our School of Agriculture & Environment, as well as related technology programs, to live under the same roof, sharing classroom, labs and resources, promoting the skills needed to succeed.

Rooted in a strong agricultural past, the Prairie Innovation Centre will advance agriculture in Manitoba, building on the understanding of the visionaries we were witness to over 100 years earlier.