SFSC’s Farmworker Jobs and Education Program Exceeds Expectations
South Florida State College’s (SFSC) Farmworker Jobs and Education Program (FJEP) was recently recognized by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) for meeting and exceeding its performance goals for the second quarter in 2013. As a result, SFSC’s FJEP was awarded an increase in allocation of $7,791 to use to serve additional migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
The FDOE requires all FJEP grantees to collect a standard set of information about program participants. This data reflects the performance outcomes, called the common measures, which track the percent of participants who enter and retain employment and their average earnings. This data allows them to track participants as they move through services and exit the program.
“The service that we provide to these migrant farmworkers in our community is invaluable,” said Kevin Brown, dean of applied sciences and technologies. “Our program helps these first time students navigate the college system and become high skilled, high-wage graduates so they can return to the community on a year-round basis.”
SFSC’s FJEP helps migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their dependents in Highlands, Hardee, and DeSoto counties receive technical training and develop working skills for a lucrative career. With nearly 61 students enrolled currently, program coordinator Tara Jefferies and her staff work to ensure that these participants succeed at pursuing their dream of a better life and livelihood.
The FJEP is funded through the FDOE by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. For unemployed or underemployed workers and their dependents who qualify, the program provides training and necessary supportive services so that they may obtain a full-time, year-round unsubsidized job at minimum wage or above. A planned program of vocational, job placement assistance, supportive services, basic and/or remedial education, including general educational development (GED) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), is provided to each participant as needed.
“The standards for this additional funding received are the same type of standards that will be used for college funding in the future if the current legislation is approved at this year’s legislative session,” Brown said. “It’s good that SFSC is ahead of the curve on performance based funding.”
The average salary for these participants varies from $7,000 to $12,000 a year. By participating in this program, migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families can achieve economic self-sufficiency, better pay, and a stable employment future.
In the farmworker student population at SFSC, Jefferies said 8 percent are single parents with children younger than 18, 71 percent have reading skills lower than the ninth-grade level, and 73 percent have math skills lower than the ninth-grade level. Of those students, 90 percent are unemployed.
FJEP is open to participants who meet the federal guidelines governing the classification of migrant and/or seasonal farmworkers. Program participants must participate in general education programs and occupational training programs that provide the necessary skills for placement in jobs with upward mobility. SFSC’s FJEP can also help provide funds for uniforms, work related tools, and more to FJEP participants.
“The purpose of this program is to move laborers from the farm to careers,” said Mario Zuniga, director senior educational program director for FJEP. “We reward those programs that meet or exceed the states expectations and SFSC has done an exceptional job in all of the performance based incentive benchmarks. Tara has done a great job improving the program from last year and getting more participants better paying jobs.”
“The support that we receive through the college allows us to better serve our students,” said Tara Jefferies, Farmworker Jobs and Education Program coordinator. “Considering our current economy and unemployment rates, being recognized and rewarded for placing participants in high wage jobs is an honor. Our dedication to these students is shown though this recognition. These students are driven and want to improve their futures.”
For more information on SFSC’s Farmworker Jobs and Education Program, contact Tara Jefferies, Highlands County FJEP coordinator, at 863-784-7386 or email JefferiesT@southflorida.edu; Minerva Ortiz, DeSoto County FJEP case manager, at 863-784-7043 or email OrtizM@southflorida.edu; or Rita Rodriguez, Hardee County FJEP case manager, at 863-784-7072 or email RodriguezR@southflorida.edu.