There are a number of supplemental program options teachers and schools can add to their educational offerings to help students obtain a variety of skills to prepare them for working jobs. The three main components of a qualifying agricultural education program are classroom and laboratory instruction, Future Farmers of America (FFA) activities and supervised agricultural experience (SAE) programs. Students in the agricultural field working toward an FFA specialization or degree can work in SAE programs to get hands-on experience in agricultural work as part of their ongoing education.
Some SAE Examples
There are four types of SAE programs: exploratory, entrepreneurship, placement and research and experimentation.
Exploratory SAE Programs
Exploratory SAE programs allow the student to see many different aspects of the agricultural industry to learn about how it works and to observe the various career paths it presents. The goal here is to have a variety of experiences, help hone a student’s future education path and better align it with their interests and strengths.
Entrepreneurship SAE Programs
Entrepreneurship SAE programs give the student partial or complete ownership of a business enterprise. The student is responsible for a good portion of the business planning, implementation, record-keeping and growth. These can be production related (growing food or crops; raising livestock or pets) or service related (lawn care, equipment mending, etc).
Placement SAE Programs
Placement SAE programs place the student in agricultural or related business, assigning them a set of tasks a worker or employee would normally complete throughout the day. The student keeps track of their hours, earnings, training and tasks throughout the period of employment.
Research and Experimentation Programs
Research and experimentation SAE programs are scientifically based experiments that pose a project or problem in the terms of a scientific experiment and study. Students work with guidance to complete valid experiments and draw conclusions to further their work.
SAE Project Outline
Supervised agricultural experiences ideas and projects aren't standardized; rather, they're initiated by interested students and their support staff based on what’s available and the student’s interest. Some examples of SAE projects include:
- Work with animals: Anything from pet care (veterinary clinics, pet babysitting or walking programs, etc.) to raising animals (chickens, kittens) or working with local livestock (goats, cows, etc.) can qualify as an SAE.
- Most yard work, especially any focused on environmental effects (leaf collection, water treatment, soil testing) or based out of local parks and reserves is likely to make a good SAE project.
- Custom foods production, research or business can provide an excellent SAE opportunity, like growing rare vegetables and endangered wildflowers or working to improve local food safety.
- Getting involved in local processes (farmers markets), plants (wastewater treatment) or productions (grain processing) should present a number of SAE project opportunities.
Benefits of SAE Programs
Overall, these programs have a number of benefits for the students partaking in SAE projects. First of all, the student gets real, hands-on experience in something they’ve shown interest in; this not only helps them make better career path choices, but it also provides them an advantage when moving into the job marketplace.
Second, students learn things like finance, business principles, scientific research strategies and employment culture. This, again, gives them a head start, even if they go into an unrelated field.
Third, these students show they're creative, capable and determined; projects like these can definitely set students apart from their contemporaries.
Lastly, students gain important networking, mentoring and employment contacts that they can use to leverage their future opportunities as well.
Overall, SAE programs and projects provide children and students with unique opportunities that focus on the practical work they’ll be doing in their future employment. Participants will also develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills before they enter the workplace as employees. These types of programs are sure to make a positive change in a student’s career.