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SouthGrow seeking applicants for ag scholarship program

Lethbridge Herald

Aug 23, 2022

The SouthGrow Regional Economic Development Alliance is asking those interested in a future career in the agriculture sector to apply for their Agri-food Future Scholarship Program.

The SouthGrow Regional Economic Development Alliance is asking those interested in a future career in the agriculture sector to apply for their Agri-food Future Scholarship Program.

“Agri-food is a huge area of economic opportunity down here in the south, it’s the basis of our entire economy and there are growing economic opportunities,” said Peter Casurella, executive director of the Southgrow regional initiative.

He said Agri-food Futures Scholarships are presented by the SouthGrow regional initiative, a regional economic development alliance in southern Alberta that works on behalf of 30 communities.

“One of the biggest challenges we face is labour in the sector. There are massive demands for new employees to come into this space, everything from low skill jobs to trades, computer science, finance, management, and business development,” said Casurella.

He said one obstacle that is creating this shortages is the fact the misconception people have in relation to agri-food.

“Most people when they think about working in agriculture, they have the classic vision of somebody working in a farm and that’s just not what it is anymore,” said Casurella.

He said they are doing a lot of work across the board to promote opportunities and careers in agri-food to get young people going to college for the kind of skills they’ll need to excel and build a very successful careers right here in southern Alberta.

“These scholarships are part of that, getting the word out every year that the region supports young people or people who are transitioning from other careers into the space, and we want to make it as easy as possible,” said Casurella.

He said this is the third year they are handing out scholarships, and the amounts continue to grow thanks to new partnerships.

“The initial two scholarships were $1500 each, last year we were able to increase that to $2250 each and this year we’ve partnered with some very community minded organizations in southern Alberta and were able to offer three scholarships at $2500 each,” said Casurella.

He said this year they partnered with MNP LLP in Taber and Ridge Utilities, a community based utility company out of the village of Sterling.

“They partnered with us and got a title on one of the scholarships. We also received donations from community futures in the Lethbridge region towards the project,” said Casurella.

He said the scholarships are designed to help students interested in careers in agri-food in Southern Alberta who will be attending to institutions in the area.

“Places like Lethbridge College, the University of Lethbridge and Red Crow College for instance,” said Casurella.

He said depending on the amount of applications received and what institutions are involved, they will make decisions on how to distribute the scholarships. Ideally they would like to support different institutions.

“Red Crow college has a new facility that’s just been opened out on the blood reserve, and I think there’s tremendous opportunity there to support students who are going into agri-food careers from our indigenous communities,” said Casurella.

He said their scholarships sponsors are great examples of careers that are related to agri-food that do not necessarily involve working out of a farm as a lot of people think.

“MNP in Taber offer financial services and they do a lot of their work directly in the agri-food space working with farmers and business development in agriculture itself, in order to build careers and build new businesses and fun projects that drive more economic opportunity,” said Casurella.

He said other careers that are being utilized in the agri-food area include robotics, business development, power technicians, electricians, and various technologies.

Casurella said that the way agri-food business is changing by improved technology used in the industry, more skills are required on the field to be able to deal with the evolving industry requirements.

Casurella said SouthGrow is looking to build more partnership to help more students achieve the skills level needed in the agri-food area.

“We would love to be able to partner with more community minded organizations out there next year, who want to give back together as a unit so we can get more scholarships to young people, to keep growing and encouraging the next generation full of talent to move into the agri-food space,” said Casurella.

Applicants need to submit their applications by Aug. 31 to be considered for 2022.


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