A growing consumer demand for locally produced foods is creating a job market for West Virginia workers in dozens of fields, and state officials have started a program that will help recent graduates and business owners.\r\n\r\nThe West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) now awards an Agriculture Education Concentration Certificate of Completion that students can use to document various agricultural specialties. This certificate also gives business owners an opportunity to recruit workers they know have the job skills they need.\r\n\r\nThat\u2019s because industry representatives were consulted during the development of the curricula.\r\n\r\nThe West Virginia Department of Agriculture and other subject matter experts also collaborated on the development of the program and officially endorses the certificate.\r\n\r\nThe program serves two purposes: to help business owners verify the skills and knowledge of a potential employee, and to encourage high school students to consider agriculture as a career.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe want employers to understand that this is a statewide program with real substance behind it; it\u2019s not just a sheet of paper,\u201d said Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick. \u201cWe have tremendous economic opportunity as a state if we decide to feed ourselves, but as in any industry, we need a trained workforce to make it happen.\u201d\r\n\r\nAgriculture education certificates are offered in agribusiness, animal systems, food products and processing, natural resources, plant systems and power, structural and technical systems.\r\n\r\nAll student \u201ccompleters\u201d must take Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, a core concentration course, a specialized concentration course and two years of Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAEs) Projects.\r\n\r\nSAEs are career-oriented, hands-on learning experiences that round out classroom discussion and leadership development in FFA, the student agriculture organization.\r\n\r\nOne of the primary advantages of an SAE is that students can develop a project or program according to their interests and abilities. As long as the SAE is relevant to agriculture, it counts. There are unlimited options to accommodate both urban and rural students.