February 3, 2017
Story and photo by Brandon Steinert
CTE Month 2017: This feature is the second of four stories to be released by Barton Community College in February in celebration of Career Technical Education (CTE) Month.
CTE Month® is an annual celebration held in February of CTE community members’ achievements and accomplishments nationwide. CTE Month 2017, with its tagline of "Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow!" gives colleges the chance to inform others of the innovation and excellence that exists within our local CTE programs and raise awareness of the crucial role that CTE plays in readying our students for careers and our nation for economic success.
News headlines and blog titles are riddled with references to the difficult job market millennials face today. Many end their four- or five-year stints at universities with mountains of debt, then compete for limited career prospects against countless peers possessing similar credentials.
Cody Tuzicka is among the lucky few to score his dream job, and he did it months before his December 2015 graduation date, with only two years of college.
Tuzicka is serving as a Soil Conservation Technician for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Larned, Kan.
“I don’t think I’ll ever have another job as long as they keep me,” he said. “I love it. ”
As a Soil Conservation Technician, Tuzicka said he works with many producers and farmers on projects to preserve soil, from assisting contractors with building terraces and waterways to ensuring plots of land dedicated to providing habitats for wildlife meet government regulations.
Much of the work is dirty, for which he was prepared with a background in agriculture and farming since he was nine years old, but Tuzicka said good communication is a critical component of his success.
“I learned how to open up to people at Barton,” he said. “I have a lot of personal relationships with producers and can talk on their level of what they know and what I know, and there is a lot of back and forth with producers on the different ways to correct issues in a field. A big thing that helped prepare me was just exposure to more people and working with other students at Barton.”
Some key relationships, he said, were with his instructors.
“My main instructor, Vic Martin, gave me advice on the types of classes I should take to do well in this job,” he said. “He was really accessible. It could be seven or eight o’clock at night when I would call, and he was always willing to help me, from homework to work on the farm. He was always willing to offer his insight.”
Community college education was not Tuzicka’s first direction. After high school, he tried his luck at a four-year university and was quickly turned off by the size and scope of the courses. One semester passed before he made the switch to Barton, which he said was a breath of fresh air.
“The class sizes are small and you get a lot of one-on-one time with the instructors,” he said. “In my experience, smaller classes help me get more out of the curriculum and the teachers will stop and explain things to you.”
Tuzicka landed his current job in October of 2015 and finished his associate degree in agriculture business from Barton two months later. He is not one to rest on his laurels indefinitely; he intends to advance in his current position by getting a bachelor’s degree.
“I’m done for at least a year and in the meantime I’m getting my feet wet,” he said.
Agriculture Instructor Vic Martin said Tuzicka’s story is not uncommon for Barton graduates and that success after Barton is defined differently by each student.
“Some of our students find employment and then don’t graduate, which is just fine,” Martin said. “Some come for a two-year degree and wind up transferring to a four year school and earning a bachelor’s degree. Others return to their family farms.”
He said Barton’s agriculture offerings are designed with the intent of supporting the local economy and workforce.
“Our degrees and certifications are tailored to the types of jobs you find in rural Kansas,” he said. “Our goal is to provide local people skills they need to get jobs so they can stay in the area and have a good life.”
Barton Career Fair
CTE month will culminate with a Career Technical Education Fair from 1-3 p.m. March 1 in the Case New Holland Shop in the Northeast side of the Technical building. Registration opens at 12:30 p.m. and optional campus tours start at 10:30 a.m.
The fair is available for 8th grade students, high school students, current Barton students and community members and will feature demonstrations, hands-on-activities, refreshments, prizes and photo ops with the Barton mascot. To sign up, contact Denise Schreiber at (620) 792-9324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.