Partnership between Reinke and NCTA Addresses Irrigation Tech Shortage


The Nebraska irrigation industry may have hit a critical shortage. This isn't a water problem, but a manpower issue. There may not be enough technicians to work on pivots with their high tech systems.

Demand for Nebraska made pivots continues to rise, but manufacturers like Reinke need more people to install and maintain them.

Regional Sales Manager Ken Goodall said, "Service technicians are highly needed. We could place a lot of students, kids right now. There's a need all over the country and world right now."

With a focus on preparing kids for real world jobs, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture saw a need it could fill.

"Part of our job is to make sure they have the workforce they need to keep the industry viable," said Dr. Ron Rosati, dean of NCTA.

The school in Curtis has partnered with the Deshler based irrigation company to create the state's first program to certify techs for this field.

Rosati said, "We spent a good bit of time with Reinke, talking to them, what kind of skills do they need in the technician when they go out into the field and that's what we've put in the curriculum."

That starts with a new center pivot installed on the campus this summer. In addition to the irrigation system, Reinke is also donating supplies, parts and other equipment to supplement the NCTA-Reinke Irrigation Technician Concentration. The pivot is north of the campus, and shows how technical these irrigation systems are.

"Changed a lot from days of old," Goodall said. "Technology and electronics and all the stuff that's involved now is a lot more high tech. The days of a guy that just works on structures is over. You've got to be an electrician computer whiz almost to work on these."

The dean of the college says it's critical to have a workforce to support our state's most important industry, as farmers feed more with less. Nebraska is the nation's leader in total irrigated cropland, with more than 8.5 million irrigated acres.

"It's been a tremendous success story the past 50 years," Rosati said of American agriculture.

The pivot features touch screen panels, GPS, water meters, temperature sensors and more. It'll also be a learning tool for agronomy students at NCTA. But first and foremost, it's there to meet the needs of a growing industry.

"We're going to create a second to none program for the country," Reinke's Goodall said.

Students enrolled in the two-semester programs are required to take 34 credit hours of courses in electricity, welding, safety, mathematics and business communication.

Some graduates will be ready to work with irrigation companies in May 2015, according to NCTA officials.

Gov. Dave Heineman will be in Curtis next month to kick off the start of the new program.