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