September 13, 2013

West Hills Community College

 Is Applied-Based for Ag Students

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Students looking for an applied type of education in the robust $45 billion agricultural world of California have a good option-- classes and degree at West Hills Community College in Coalinga, with their strategic Farm of the Future program.

Here are the high demand vocational agricultural and industrial science areas that can lead to good job prospects.

·      Agricultural Science and Technology

·      Agricultural Pest Control Advisor

·      Welding Technology

·      Heavy Equipment Operation

·      Industrial Maintenance Technology

·      Tractor GPS Technology

Among the most popular curriculums for West Hills agricultural students is the pest control advisor program. While PCAs specialize in insect and disease management and prevention, their job also entails other production concerns related to plant health. PCAs not only work for farming operations, but also for municipalities in maintaining roadway vegetation, assisting golf courses to be pest free as well as greenhouses and landscapes.

The PCA industry is considered high growth over the next 10 years as many long-time PCAs are starting to retire.

In 24 months, with applicable work experience, the college prepares student for the California Department of Pesticide Regulations Agricultural PCA exam. The course work is geared for working students who can study online at home and travel to Coalinga on weekends for classroom and field experience.

The curriculum is part of the Farm of the Future, which is located on 230 acres in Coalinga and was donated in 2001 by the Allen Family (with special thanks to Dorothy Allen). To date, West Hills Community College District has invested more than $24 million on the site’s infrastructure, which includes a shop, rodeo grounds and stable areas for horses.

David Castillo
David Castillo is the Interim Director of the Farm of the Future. Castillo will oversee the farm’s almonds, pistachios, garlic, and alfalfa operations. “Student’s can learn hands on here and understand the nuances of agriculture, which gives them a boost in the work force,” he said.

“We are an education institution first, so we can take a risk on what we are farming and try new things,” said Frances Squire, Executive Director of the West Hills Community College Foundation, which helps raise money and secure grants for the college.

A lot of what we are offering at West Hills is what the farming and other industries have told us what they need, noted Squire. “Farmers have told us that they need PCAs, and PG&E has told us they need welders so that’s why we are offering the course work. You can count on our students with certificates in hand to find jobs once they finish here, or if they want or need to further their education they are well equipped to attend a university,” Squire said.

West Hills Community College is part of the West Hills Community College District, which began in 1932. Today the district encompasses a 3,464 square mile region that includes portions of five surrounding counties including Fresno, Kings, Madera, Monterey and San Benito. The district also has a North District Center campus in Firebaugh and well as two campuses in Lemoore, one in the town of Lemoore with an additional site at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore.

More information can be found at

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