The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

Penn State Extension has launched a program that offers participants a fast track to a potential career in animal agriculture.

Designed to provide paid experience and training for career seekers, the Animal Science Apprenticeship Program matches individuals with educational work opportunities in Pennsylvania’s poultry, swine and dairy industries. Through related technical instruction led by Penn State Extension and on-the-job training, apprentices receive all the education they need to start an agricultural career.

Apprentices are hired for full-time positions with competitive wages while they learn the basics of animal science to support their daily work and career growth. This program caters to those with no animal production experience, such as those just starting their career post-high school or to those seeking a career change.

The program takes about one year to complete, with 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and more than 145 hours of related technical instruction. For apprentices, this is a career jump-start, as according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, more than 90 percent of apprentices remain employed after completing their apprenticeship.

Program organizers noted that apprenticeships can benefit both career seekers and livestock producers as employers.

Employers who host an apprentice can take advantage of a broader range of candidates for jobs, boost employee loyalty and reduce turnover. Through the program, employers are supported in their training efforts by Penn State Extension experts. By the end of the one-year apprenticeship, employers have a certified and trained employee.

Apprentices benefit by participating in classroom or online sessions during which they learn the science behind the animal work they will be performing day to day. Apprentices will receive education on a variety of topics related to the care and management of farm animals and specialized education based on the animal species they work with directly — dairy, swine or poultry. This will include animal health and welfare, feeding and nutrition practices, food safety, and housing and facility management. Apprentices also will learn communication, time management, dependability and other basic “soft” skills.

Organizers will hold a kick-off event for the 2024 apprenticeship program June 11-13 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College. At this event, apprentices will meet the Penn State team, other apprentices and producers, as well as participate in their initial animal-care and soft-skills classroom training.

Prospective apprentices and employers interested in the program can get more information by sending email to or visiting