The Wisconsin Agricultural Education and Workforce Development Council (WAEWDC) announced its membership, purpose statement, and goals. After several years of inactivity, the council was reformed in 2020 under Governor Tony Evers’ leadership to serve a key role in Wisconsin’s economic and workforce recovery efforts. Farm assistant, Aaron Zimmerman was able to catch up with council chair, Sara Schoeborn to discuss details.
“We all know there are long-standing workforce challenges across our state, in many different industries and markets,” said Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. “It’s critical that we work together in addressing those challenges with both short- and long-term solutions. This council is one way to build the connections necessary to ensure a bright future for our agricultural industry and our state’s economy.”
According to its purpose statement, the council provides advice and counsel to state agencies, educational institutions, and the Wisconsin Legislature on matters related to agricultural education and workforce development. In addition, the council helps attract, develop, and retain the superior workforce required to grow Wisconsin’s production agriculture, agribusiness, food, and natural resource sectors.
“Wisconsin agriculture is a significant employer in our state, responsible for 435,700 jobs,” said Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary-designee Randy Romanski. “The diversity of this industry means there is a place for everyone in our agriculture community, from farmers to veterinarians, cheese makers to meat processors, to policymakers and marketing professionals and many more. I’m confident this council will help foster the next generation of Wisconsin agriculture.”
The group also shared three main goals:
- Support agricultural education instructors and find effective ways to reach every student to highlight the opportunities available in agriculture in a positive, purposeful way.
- Partner with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to embrace and promote the development of a statewide agriculture career pathway.
- Research current trends, evaluate established perspectives, and develop a branding, marketing and public outreach plan for careers in agriculture.
“Wisconsin is fortunate to have a vibrant agriculture industry,” said WAEWDC Chair Sara Schoenborn. “There is so much to be proud of about the innovation and dedication we see each day in our state. I’m honored to lead this council as we work with government and industry to support and encourage a strong agricultural workforce for years to come.”
WAEWDC includes the following members:
Chair: Sara Schoenborn, WI Agri-Business Association
- Amy Pechacek, Secretary-designee, DWD
- Randy Romanski, Secretary-designee, DATCP
- Sharon Wendt, designee on behalf of the State Superintendent, DPI
- Gwendolyn Boettcher, DeForest School District
- Jeff Edgar, Silver Creek Nurseries, Inc.
- Erik Huschitt, Badger State Ethanol
- Betsy Leonard, Wisconsin Technical College System
- Paul Palmby, Seneca Foods
Members at Large:
- Kevin Bernhardt, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
- Gary Besaw, Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Deptartment of Agriculture and Food Systems
- Greg Cisewski, Northcentral Technical College
- Alberta Darling, State Senator, 8th Senate District
- Jeff Eide, Blair-Taylor School District
- Monica Gahan, Vincent High School of Agricultural Sciences, Milwaukee
- Dale Gallenberg, University of Wisconsin-River Falls
- Tom Gillis, WI Corn Growers Association
- Bob Hagenow, Rio Community School Board
- Pete Kondrup, Westby Cooperative Creamery
- Corey Kuchta, WI Public Service
- Larry Lee, Brownfield Ag News
- Miranda Leis, WI Farm Bureau Federation; CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley
- Lynn Maki, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine
- Howard Marklein, State Senator, 17th Senate District
- Dr. Susan May, Fox Valley Technical College
- Shelly Mayer, Dairy farmer/Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin
- Loren Oldenburg, State Representative, 96th Assembly District
- Kristin Olson, Cooperative Network
- Pam Porter, WI Department of Natural Resources
- Sam Rikkers, Deputy Secretary, WI Economic Development Corporation
- John Rosenow, Rosenholm Wolfe Dairy Farm/Cowsmo Compost
- Jill Runde, McFarland School District
- Nick Stadnyk, Rusk County Land and Water Conservation Dept
- Gary Tauchen, State Representative, 6th Assembly District