Joliet Junior College Agriculture Professor Bill Johnson accepted the Educators Outstanding Cooperation Award at the National Association for Agriculture Education convention in Nashville, Tennessee last November. Johnson received the award on behalf of the Illinois Council on Agriculture Education (ILCAE), for which he serves as co-chair. Johnson and other members of this organization were recognized for its support of agriculture programs throughout Illinois.
Johnson, who has been a part of ILCAE since the mid-1980s, said the council is made up of 33 members across Illinois consisting of farmers, agriculture business employers, representatives from the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program, and representatives from both JJC and the University of Illinois. JJC and U of I are the only colleges represented on the board.
ILCAE was created more than 30 years ago to promote agriculture programs in post-secondary education. Members actively lobby for state funding for these programs year round, and thanks to ILCAE’s efforts, for the past two years the state has granted $500,000 toward all 325 Illinois high schools that offer agriculture programs.
Johnson said being a part of the board has also helped him connect with Illinois farmers and agriculture business employers, which in turn has given him an insight into how he should teach his agriculture classes at JJC. Since he networks with these people frequently, he can teach his students about the latest agriculture practices.
The JJC Agriculture Department has been a significant part of JJC since 1954, when JJC became the first community college in Illinois to offer an agriculture program.
Since then, JJC has served more than 200 agriculture students each year.
According to Johnson, agriculture jobs are in high demand, and on average, for each JJC student, there are three to four jobs waiting for them after graduation.
Students who choose to study agriculture at JJC can either be a part of the two-year program, where students are prepared to immediately go out into the workforce, or the transfer program, where students can transition to a four-year university. Those in the two-year program are required to have two internships; those in the transfer program are required to have one.
Johnson said the internship experience has guaranteed a job for most of his students. JJC agriculture internship employers hire about 90 percent of students who graduate from the two-year program.
For more information about JJC’s agriculture program, visit www.jjc.edu/agriculture-horticulture.