After hearing from industry leaders about workforce needs, Eastern Oregon University will debut courses leading toward a new bachelor’s concentration combining agriculture and business at its Hermiston location this fall.

Laura Gow-Hogge will spearhead the Hermiston agribusiness courses, which will fall under the business department.

The business concentration will give students an understanding of the entire supply chain — “from farm gate all the way to consumer plate,” Gow-Hogge said. Students will be required to have practicum experience in two distinct areas of the agribusiness supply chain.

The concentration also includes required classes such as Agribusiness/Food IndustryPolicies as well as management and global agribusiness trade. Electives such as agribusiness risk management and technology applications in agriculture supply chain are included as well.

The program will have one in-person agribusiness class per semester at its Hermiston Eastern Oregon Higher Education Center. All of the core agribusiness classes will be available online.

Gow-Hogge worked with local businesses such as ConAgra and Pioneer Seed to develop the curriculum.

“We started picking out these needs that the industry in the area was voicing very strongly,” she said. “There are signature players in all parts of the supply chain in the region.”

The college hopes to accommodate non-traditional students in the agribusiness courses, making weekend and night classes the norm. The concentration also will offer two-credit “snapshot” classes rather than the traditional three to five credit classes.

EOU president Bob Davies told Hermiston City Council this week that the college is always looking for ways to meet industry needs.

“Industry is saying now, ‘We don’t have time to teach these specialized skills,’” Davies said. “If you tell me what you need in an employee, we can teach it.”

However, EOU?still needs students to fill the seats. At least 10-15 consistent students in a program are necessary, Davies said, to be able to bring additional faculty to Hermiston from La Grande for in-person classes. The business department will also recruit adjunct faculty to teach locally.

Davies hopes the program will allow agricultural businesses to hire more locals, and for rural students to secure high-wage jobs.

“Hey, if we get guys who come from Eastern Oregon in the program and want to stay here, everyone wins,” he said.

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Contact Natalie Wheeler at nwheeler@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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