AFOP held its annual Training Day on Friday, February 15th. It was well attended by nearly 40 National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) grantees, as well as several U.S. Department of Labor representatives. The event started off with a warm welcome from Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of the Employment and Training Administration, who remarked on the outstanding work the NFJP is doing for farmworkers across the country.
The first session of the day covered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, presented by Franchella Kendall, Chief of the Division of Standards and National Industry Promotion in the Office of Apprenticeship at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Ms. Kendall gave an overview of what the DOL Employment and Training Administration is working on in terms of registered apprenticeship programs (RAP) and some new initiatives, such as partnering with CVS for a registered apprenticeship program for pharmacy technicians.
NFJP participants can benefit greatly from apprenticeships because they provide hands-on training and instruction in a skilled industry while paying salary for work performed. At the conclusion of an apprenticeship, the participant is often hired as a permanent employee or will have the education and experience to find a permanent position elsewhere. Chris Paige, CEO of California Human Development Corporation, discussed the need for apprenticeship programs in agriculture, as well. He shared the actions his organization is taking to set up a program in the wine industry in California. The program would cover a variety of skilled positions within wine production and would include 144 hours of classroom instruction paid for through California’s Community College System.
The day also featured four NFJP grantees who are making strides in increasing their retention rates and average earnings figures, or who have maintained high numbers over many quarters. Two staff from Motivation, Education and Training (MET) Inc., Franklin Montgomery, Director of Field Services, and Frailan Sendejo, Workforce Development Coordinator, as well as Richard Lopez, president of SER Corporation in Kansas, presented on increasing average earnings figures. Important themes from the presentations included the need to identify in-demand jobs in the local area and partner with training programs that will give participants a competitive edge, such as those that will result in a number of certifications from one program. The three presenters noted that jobs in the energy and health care fields pay high wages and are growing in demand in most areas throughout the country. Mr. Montgomery also stressed the importance of strong communication between program administration, managers, staff, employers, community colleges, and participants, in addition to a willingness to build partnerships amongst these entities. Mr. Lopez touched on the importance of staying connected with the local workforce investment board (WIB) and employers to assess employment needs and learn about new business developments. By having this type of information early, SER prepares clients with the skills they need to be ready when hiring starts.
Barbara Simcoe, state director at PPEP, Inc., and Jesús Soto, executive director of Proteus, Inc., discussed increasing retention numbers. Ms. Simcoe spoke about PPEP’s targeted job-readiness workshop curriculum, which they started teaching to the participants with the most barriers to staying employed, and with which they have found success. Mr. Soto highlighted his approach to holding staff accountable for their work and having high expectations for outcomes. All of the grantees talked about the importance of forming a strong relationship with NFJP participants so case managers can adequately assess the strengths and needs of their clients to ensure a more successful placement in the long term. Additionally, by building a strong rapport, the participants are much more likely to stay in contact with NFJP staff and keep them informed of their employment status, which is necessary for documenting accurate retention figures.
The day of training provided ample opportunity for attendees to meet and discuss their own approaches to maintain and increase their retention rates and average earnings. Opportunities to share ideas are invaluable for a national program, such as the NFJP, and I am very pleased so many people took the opportunity to come to Washington, D.C. to do this. If you were not able to attend, please take a look at the presentations posted on the trainings page of the Agricultural Connection. If you have any ideas or requests for next year’s Training Day, please feel free to contact me at Vaughn@afop.org.