4-H Tractor Operator Program teaches youth safety, confidence and job skills

The Berrien County 4-H Tractor Operator Program recently certified youth with employability skills and safety preparedness training.

With spring in the air, tractors and agricultural equipment are seen on Michigan roads and in the fields. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, agriculture continues to rank among the most hazardous industries. For six Berrien County youth, they are ready to approach this industry with safety in mind.

Through the service of three 4-H volunteer instructors, six teens recently completed a total of 24 hours of tractor safety and emergency preparedness training through the Michigan State University Extension Berrien County 4-H Tractor Operator Program. Five received certification acceptable to meet the U.S. Department of Labor requirements for operation of a 20 PTO HP or greater, garden or agricultural tractor, by 14- and 15-year-old youth employed on property not owned, leased or operated by a parent or legal guardian. In addition to being age-eligible, participants needed to complete a pre-operational exam as well as pass the written knowledge and tractor driving tests. Certification is also utilized by youth who exhibit and participate in local tractor driving contests, parades and festival activities.

Participant evaluation results indicated:

  • Five of the six intend to pursue work on a farm or ranch.
  • One hundred percent agreed or strongly agreed they would be a safer worker as a result of taking the training.

Participant comments included:

  • “There were experienced instructors to teach us.”
  • What I liked the most was “how we could sit and talk about things and learn at the same time.”
  • A participant liked that one of the instructors held extra Saturday practices to “help us get ready for the driving test.”

Parent evaluation results indicated:

  • One hundred percent of responding parents enrolled their child in order for them to learn safety and be more prepared to work on family and neighboring farms.
  • Skills learned by their child included confidence and self-esteem, safety awareness, how to participate in the classroom setting and responsibility.
  • One parent learned their son is a safe driver and is very interested in farming in the future.

Berrien County 4-H offers the tractor operator program each winter. For more ways to help young people learn and prepare for jobs and careers, visit our career preparation online resources.

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