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ERIC Identifier: ED259873
Publication Date: 1985-03-00
Author: Arnold, John D.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools Las Cruces NM.

Out of the Fields and Into Computers.

Training programs can provide opportunities for migrant farm workers to move into more professional and higher paying jobs.

CAN MIGRANT FARM WORKERS MAKE THE TRANSITION FROM FIELD TO OFFICE?

A year ago, 20-year-old Marina DeLa Cruz was a field worker. She spent 15 hours a day wielding a hoe, chopping weeds in cotton fields near Stanfield, west of Casa Grande, Arizona. For her strenuous work, done when temperatures soared above 100 degrees, DeLa Cruz earned $3.35 an hour. Because her job was seasonal, usually lasting only three or four months a year, her annual income was about $3,500.

Today, DeLa Cruz operates a computer in an office at Gates Lear Jet Corporation in Tucson. She works eight hours a day, forty hours a week, in a climate-controlled setting and earns $200 a week.

DeLa Cruz is one of 16 young Arizona women who recently have made the transition from field to office as the result of six months of training they received in computer technology, business techniques, and office procedures. The training was provided by Portable Practical Educational Preparation-Training for Employment Centers (PPEP-TEC), a Tucson-based non-profit corporation.

WHY SHOULD MIGRANTS LEARN A SKILL OTHER THAN FARM WORK?

Since 1953 technology has been displacing migrant farm workers in large numbers. In California, for example, one of the state universities invented a tomato-harvesting machine that displaced 40,000 workers. There is a need to find an alternative skill for those displaced adults and their children so they can compete in a new job market.

WHY SHOULD MIGRANTS BE TAUGHT COMPUTER LITERACY?

The rationale of PPEP-TEC is to tackle the root of the problem of displacement. The concept is to use the same high technology that is displacing the farm workers to create jobs for them and their children. Thus, PPEP-TEC introduces the farm workers to the field of microcomputers to insure their access to the computer age.

WHAT ASSETS DO FARM WORKERS BRING TO THE WORK WORLD?

Farm workers possess all the vital ingredients that today's work world requires. Farm workers certainly understand the work ethic. Farm workers have planted, nurtured, and harvested food since the beginning of history. They know that one must arrive at work on time, work hard, and work whatever hours are necessary to get the job done. This kind of commitment is the "dream" of any employer in today's work world.

In the southern and border states where commercial ties with Mexico are vital to local economies, migrants can offer their greatest assets: they speak Spanish, and they culturally identify with Hispanic neighbors. For instance, in Tucson, Arizona, some $80 million is spent at Christmas by Mexican tourists who patronize local businesses. It has become almost unthinkable for merchants not to have a Spanish-speaking employee who understands these patrons.

HOW WAS THE PPEP-TEC PROGRAM ESTABLISHED?

After securing funds from the Jobs Training Partnership Act, PPEP-TEC started Training for Employment Centers within the primary agricultural regions of Arizona. A license to operate was obtained from the Arizona State Board of Private Technical and Business Schools. A Business Advisory Committee made up of potential employers such as IBM, Burr Brown, Hughes Aircraft, National Semi-Conductor, Gates Lear Jet of Arizona, Diamond's and Mervyn's Department stores, and others was formalized to provide input into the training process.

After a marketing study was completed, the centers hired local instructors who culturally and linguistically identified with the target population. Employment workers then recruited, screened, and tested some 60 farm workers who comprised the first participants. Each training center was equipped with IBM microcomputers, word processing equipment, and electronic typewriters. Housing and stipends for the participants provided income maintenance for a six-month training period.

WHAT ARE THE DESIRED OUTCOMES OF THE COMPUTER TRAINING PROGRAM?

It is anticipated that this special program will have a number of desired effects. Specifically, participants will acquire or develop the following:

--A high level of self-respect and confidence in their ability to perform on the job

--Proficiency in the basic skills of advanced clerical business technology

--Coping skills necessary for a rewarding work experience

--A strong commitment to and understanding of the basic principles of the work ethic in this modern industrial and high-technology agribusiness setting

WHAT KINDS OF ADVANCED BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY SKILLS ARE TAUGHT FARM WORKERS?

In order to assist the farm workers in breaking out of the "migrant cycle," the marketable skills are taught in the following courses, which constitute the 6-month, 8-hour-a-day training program:

--Microcomputer technology --Database management --Word processing --Data processing --Business machines --Electronic typewriters --Clerical skills --Accounting --Spelling

WHAT KINDS OF TRAINING-RELATED PROBLEMS HAVE BEEN ENCOUNTERED?

Unfortunately, farm workers do not simply discard their short-handled hoes and develop proficiency on the keyboard of an IBM Personal Computer. Many personal adjustments must be made. The trauma of relocation away from the support of the strong family system which exists among farm workers necessitates a new spirit of independence. Earned income of the participants is replaced by compensation in the form of a stipend equal to minimum wage.

However, because of longer work days in the fields, it is very tempting for a farm worker to leave the class during the height of the agricultural season to make more money than the stipend offers. Thus, the participants must be constantly reminded that they must develop long-term goals for personal and professional improvement. The most difficult obstacle for most program participants is adjusting to a classroom environment, dress code, and life in an urban setting. They must also acquire the discipline required to work in high-technology industries or agribusiness.

HOW HAVE THESE PROBLEMS BEEN HANDLED?

Vocational and psychological counseling is available for the participants on a regular or on-call basis. Other support systems in the community, such as churches and service clubs, have been mobilized to meet their needs. Also, direct lines of communication back to the home environment are maintained.

Language, physical, and cultural barriers are best handled by having bilingual and bicultural instructors. To accommodate this need, PPEP-TEC instructions come in four languages: English, Spanish, Navajo, and sign language.

The Business and Advisory Committee members help the participants to overcome negative feelings of self-worth. For example, Mervyn's and Diamond's


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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