Luuk Veening never liked being stuck in a classroom. He would rather “get out and do things,” evidenced by a glimpse of his work experience: seven summers fishing in Alaska, custom baling for farmers, working on several dairy farms. When an admissions counselor visited his high school in Lynden, Wash., he was caught by Dordt University’s Pro-Tech (professional technical) program in Farming Operations and Management, established in 2017. He’s now among the first graduates of that program, which has 27 students enrolled for the 2019-2020 school year.
Describing himself as “not a big school guy” Veening said he was “all in” for a program that involved “only going to school three days a week and working for two.”
The 21-year-old is a member of Sonlight CRC in Lynden and was one of 11 students in the first graduating class of the Farm Operations Management program, receiving an associate of science degree in May 2019.
Currently Dordt Pro-Tech offers two associate of science degrees, including Farm Operations and Management, and Manufacturing Technology. According to Dordt president Erik Hoekstra, both are two-year, vocational programs granting students a hands-on education with paid internships plus classroom activities. For 2019-2020, 15 students are enrolled in the manufacturing program and one student is taking a blend of both programs.
Hoekstra said starting the Pro-Tech program required unconventional thinking.
“We (were) getting our heads around the fact that in 100 years of American education there was a liberal arts college and a tech school, with a hard line between those two. That’s a false dichotomy.”
Having skilled people willing to work in the trades is beneficial to society, noted Hoekstra. “We’ve thought this kind of work is beneath us, but that’s not true, God calls us,” said Hoekstra. “There is really no difference in God’s eye between pastor or plumber.”
According to Hoekstra, Dordt chose to begin the Pro-Tech program in these two fields by responding to the community and partnering with local operations such as Link Manufacturing, Maassen Farms and others in Sioux County. Dordt University is considering expansion of the Pro-Tech program, which is currently funded through tuition and the support of individual donors.
Since graduating in May, Veening stepped briefly into more responsibilities on his family’s dairy farm in Washington state, before heading to Alaska for a final summer of commercial fishing. He plans to continue dairy farming on a cousin’s farm in Europe.