4-H Tractor Operator Program teaches employability skills

Michigan State University Extension utilizes volunteers to teach safety and employability skills through 4-H Tractor Operator Program.

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor indicated that agriculture was a more hazardous occupation than firefighting and law enforcement. The Berrien County 4-H Tractor Operator Program (TOP) has provided tractor safety certification training to teens for more than 30 years. Successful completion of TOP provides 24 hours of certification training required by federal child labor laws for operation of a 20 PTO horsepower or greater garden or agricultural tractor by
14- and 15-year-old youth employed on property that is not owned, leased or operated by a parent or legal guardian.  

Southwest Michigan continues to provide employment opportunities in the agricultural industry, particularly during the growing season. By participating in TOP, young people gain respect for equipment, develop driving skills, build confidence, learn to work as a team and are better prepared to handle an emergency situation. Volunteer instructors teach the following topics based on the Gearing Up For Safety curriculum distributed by Hobar Publications and published by Purdue University.

Areas of education include:

  • ATV/Utility vehicle safety
  • Basic tractor operation
  • Farm/Ranch hazards and safety
  • First aid and emergencies
  • Operating agricultural equipment on public roadways
  • Tractor components
  • Tractor-powered implements and self-propelled agricultural equipment
  • Safe maintenance and repair

Six teenage participants recently completed the 2012 program with the intent of seeking employment in the agricultural industry.  In addition to knowledge gained, participants had to pass a pre-operational test, a written exam and a tractor driving test to graduate. In addition to learning how to safely operate a tractor, 100 percent of participants indicated that they believed the training will make them a safer worker and that they are more confident.

Pictured: Berrien County 4-H Tractor Operator Class of 2012 - left to right: Rose Safranek (Hartford), Hank Schmaltz (Baroda), Genevieve McDaniel (Lawton), Lilah Rosier (Hartford), Jake Payeur (Buchanan) and Sam Pappa (Baroda).

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources