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Mobile programs provide job training to farm workers

Many farm workers hoping to gain new job skills in Minnesota and North Dakota live more than an hour away from community and technical colleges and the training available there. An innovative mobile welding training lab offered by M State's Custom Training Services (CTS) in cooperation with North Dakota State College of Science provides an opportunity for welding skills training otherwise impossible. Equally mobile is customized computer skills training taught whereever it is most convenient for farm workers to attend. Both classes are held during the afternoon and evening ensuring that clients do not sacrifice any earnings while training.

CTS's partner for this unique work is Motivation Education & Training, Inc. (MET), a National Farm worker Jobs Program (NFJP) organization, which offers services that provide farm workers with skills training opportunities enabling them to obtain employment opportunities with higher wages and greater benefits.

Miguel Cantu, Workforce Development Coordinator of MET Inc. in Minnesota and North Dakota noted: "[Our welding training] is unique because the semi-trailer [we use] is the classroom. We can take this trailer out to any facility that can provide a good power source. So now we can take our classes to our farm workers."

"It's important to understand the intimidation our clients, at times, have in going to a professional office for service and training," Cantu continues. "Because we are able to take the training to a location that is comfortable to the clients, we have found they are signing up for the courses," he explained.

The Basic Computer Skills course teaches participants the fundamental elements of a desktop and laptop computer, including Microsoft Windows applications, Word, and Outlook. Initially, clients were extremely nervous about using the computers. Their confidence increased exponentially during the training and Cantu commented that some clients have even purchased second-hand computers in order to further augment their skills.

The computer course's success encouraged many farm workers to enroll in the welding class. The welding instructor, Ron Pfaff, expressed amazement at the clients' dedication to the six-hour sessions after a full day of hard labor in the fields. Pfaff taught the clients basic metallurgy and joint designs and then showed them common welding techniques. All clients were given a final assessment that tested their knowledge and skill level. Clients achieved a 100 percent completion rate and received a certificate of training from M State.

"A classroom does not need four walls and a door," Cantu said. "The classroom can be out of the back of your vehicle or a trailer. With this idea, we have taken the programs closer to our farm workers, [thereby] making them more accessible," Cantu said. "[We] adapt everything to the needs of the farm worker."

Last modified: January 22nd, 2009 at 11:52am