Two youth tractor certification classes will be offered to the public this spring through a partnership of regional Career and Technical Education Centers and UVM Extension 4-H.
Each course will take place over four Saturday sessions, and include a mix of hands-on experiential learning, in-depth discussion, written and visual resources, and plenty of time for Q&A.
Although tractor training happens locally for many interns and farmhands and for some Career Center students, conversations with farmers, teachers, students and service providers around the state tell us that this kind of education in tractor skills and safety needs to be more widely available to the next generation.
After working around school calendars, the first class is tentatively scheduled to be offered in Randolph in March and April, while the second course will take place in Newport from mid-April through mid-May.
The standardized National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program follows US labor regulations to offer 14 and 15 year olds the training and legal certification to operate tractors and certain other hazardous machinery (off their family farm, for pay).
Even though training in safe tractor operation is not required by law for agriculture workers who are 16 and older, or for youth on their own family farm, safety training and awareness are valuable at any age. A nationally recognized safety training certificate may also make a young person a more attractive hire for insurance-conscious employers.
In Newport, classes will be led by veteran CTE instructor Fern Fontaine, with outreach support from UVM Extension to invite attendance by young people from beyond the North Country Career Center neighborhood. For the Randolph course, UVM Extension will train and support contracted instructors and will coordinate the “backstage” administration such as scheduling, outreach, registration, printing, sourcing resource materials, and any other coordinating and facilitating needs.
Instructors are encouraged to supplement the NSTMOP informational “Task Sheets” with other written texts; service and operation manuals; demonstrations; simple activities; tractor and equipment vendor information; videos; group discussions and problem-solving; field trips to farms or equipment dealers; resources from national safety education campaigns; and independent study and field assignments.
We are currently outlining sessions and identifying a roster of folks who know their stuff when it comes to safe tractor operation, would be willing to speak with a group of 10-15 students, and are available for half a Saturday in March or April. Does that sound like you? If so, please don’t hesitate to get in touch (even if you might already be on our list) to indicate your interest and to learn more about qualifications and compensation.