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Labor and Economic Opportunity

$500,000 USDA grant will support Michigan food and agriculture businesses and farmworkers

New initiative will develop food and agriculture technology education and career pathways for migrant and seasonal farmworkers

May 13, 2021

Media Contact: Mike Murray, 517-275-1820

LANSING, Mich.-The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), in partnership with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce and others, has been awarded a $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to support the Michigan Agriculture and Food System Workforce Advancement Initiative. This new initiative will support Michigan's food and agriculture industry by developing agriculture technology education and career pathways for migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

"The food and agriculture industry is critical to our state's growth, contributing more than $100 billion annually to the state's economy and accounting for about 17% of total employment," said Stephanie Beckhorn, Director of LEO's Office of Employment and Training. "Through this initiative, these critical workers will be engaging in agriculture technology-related career pathway and training programs, including participating in experiential learning and completing relevant and stackable courses, obtaining high school and college credit, and earning industry recognized credentials.

"It will provide opportunities to obtain financial security for themselves and their families while meeting the skilled workforce needs of our state's food and agriculture employers," Beckhorn said.

Joining LEO and the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce in this effort are the Institute of Agricultural Technology, the Center for Regional Food Systems and Migrant Student Services at Michigan State University, and Michigan Food and Farming Systems.

"The Michigan Agriculture and Food System Workforce Advancement Initiative is designed to help Michigan food growers, processers and distributors develop the technology- and data-savvy workforce they need to fill critical jobs," said Jeannine LaPrad, Senior Fellow with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce. "This will be accomplished by increasing the number and quality of job-based, experiential learning opportunities and credentials for migrant and seasonal farmworkers."

Initiative partners are currently recruiting employers and training organizations to join advisory groups interested in advancing the opportunity for farmworkers to attain a certificate, license or degree, and develop the skills needed for career advancement. This will ensure relevance of education and training. 

"This initiative is helping to address some of the needs identified in an assessment we conducted in 2019 looking at the workforce of local and regional food systems," said Dr. Jude Barry, Associate Director, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. "Innovative educational programs in food and agriculture systems and technology we hope will help migrant and seasonal farm workers achieve more work stability and economic opportunity by developing the skills they need to advance."

Expanding education and training opportunities for migrant and seasonal farmworkers aligns with Michigan's Sixty by 30 goal to increase the number of working-age adults with a skill certificate to 60% by 2030.

This work is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative-Agricultural Workforce Training Priority Area [grant no. 2021-67037-34302 /project accession no. 1025675], from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

For more information about the Michigan Agriculture and Food System Workforce Advancement Initiative, contact Hector Arroyo Jr., State Administrative Manager, at ArroyoH@michigan.gov.

To learn more about employment services and resources available to Michigan's agricultural workers and employers, visit Michigan.gov/AFLS.