- Program-Specific Requirements for Wagner-Peyser Program (Employment Services)
All Program-Specific Requirements provided for the WIOA core programs in this section must be addressed for either a Unified or Combined State Plan.
- e. Agricultural Outreach Plan (AOP). Each State agency must develop an AOP every four years as part of the Unified or Combined State Plan required under sections 102 or 103 of WIOA. The AOP must include an assessment of need. An assessment need describes the unique needs of farmworkers in the area based on past and projected agricultural and farmworker activity in the State. Such needs may include but are not limited to: employment, training, and housing.
e. 1. Assessment of Need. Provide an assessment of the unique needs of farmworkers in the area based on past and projected agricultural and farmworker activity in the State. Such needs may include but are not limited to: employment, training, and housing.
The assessment of need is geared towards the farmworker activities that the DWD outreach, program, and Employer Services staff have observed through past outreach efforts. The current primary connection with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) and DWD is with respect to data. DWD staff utilize data provided by both the United Stated Department of Agriculture and ISDA to identify Indiana’s primary crops and data for both state national rankings.
Historically, this has been the sole connection, since the ISDA and DWD have different focuses. The DWD focuses on Migrant/Seasonal Farmworkers (MSFWs) with respect to their housing, working conditions, rights, and access to job opportunities and employment services. ISDA mainly focuses on economic development opportunities, public affairs, soil conservation, FFA, and Indiana grain and buyer’s warehouse and licensing. The Combined Plan, however, offers both state agencies the unique opportunity to begin exploring areas of overlap that can be leveraged for collaboration, such as outreach to farmers, corporations, and agriculture organization regarding both economic development opportunities for upskilling workers and ways to create awareness regarding MSFWs. ISDA’s relationships with employer could help get outreach staff to MSFWs with more efficiency and ease. Additional strategies in which both agencies can leverage the activities of the other to further its goals will be examined during 2020 and 2021; implementation of these strategies will begin in 2022.
The needs of these farmworkers and farmworker families range from employment, housing, and education-related to non-agricultural job training and education.
- Employment: During Indiana’s peak season months, MSFWs are mainly hired through farm labor contractors or crew leaders, who recruit workers for the Agricultural Employer. During this strategic planning phase, the contractor is seeking talent with previous experience in the farm work industry, and usually hire the same workers season after season. The most demanding farm jobs in Indiana are still hand labor-intensive jobs to plant, weed, detassel, harvest, and sort the following crops: corn, tomatoes, melons, pumpkins and apples. These crops are also the top five labor intensive crops in Indiana for the current program year.
March/April to mid-November is considered peak season for Indiana. The farm work season relies heavily on a few factors: climate (either rainy conditions or droughts delay prepping the fields and planting) and shortage of workers both affect the season. Indiana has been experiencing fewer migrant workers, especially workers from Texas, migrating to Indiana. Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that many older workers are retiring, the younger generations are seeking other employment opportunities, and some workers are even migrating to California to join farm work unions that pay a high wage with benefits which include healthcare options.
2. Education: MSFWs have multiple barriers to employment that can hinder their chances of advancing their education. For the most part, migrant farm work is a family affair and a way of life. Due to various migration paths throughout the year, migrant workers often do not receive sufficient education necessary to advancing in the labor market. Most migrant workers lack education, have a language barrier, and rarely want to relocate to Indiana to work or pursue other opportunities.
During peak season, the outreach program specialist encountered several English Learners that were detasseling corn for a short time period. Detasseling corn lasts only four to six weeks before workers move on to another state. Seasonal farmworkers in Indiana are pursuing other opportunities through the assistance of our local WorkOnes. During the last program year, 490 MSFWs received a Wagner-Peyser service and 67 received a WIOA Title I service.
3. Housing: Many migrant workers depend on employer-provided housing, since they are unfamiliar with the area and need housing that is close in proximity to where the farm work is being performed. Hoosier agricultural employers house approximately 3,341 MSFWs in temporary agricultural housing and/or agricultural labor camps (ALC) during the peak season. In the State of Indiana, an ALC Permit is required if an agricultural employer is going to house 5 or more MSFWs in one location. Additional information and time is required to process and complete an ALC Permit, which is done yearly. Pre-occupancy housing inspections are performed 45 days before the day of need or anticipated date of hire. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) performs all pre-occupancy agricultural domestic housing inspections to include H-2A inspections as well. The ISDH also assists with initial permits or permit renewals. Housing for MSFWs is difficult to find for a short period of time. This leads to renting non-traditional housing such as; apartments, motels, trailer parks, and other means of public accommodations.
Additionally, the State Monitor Advocate provides ongoing review of the delivery of services to and protections for MSFWs at all WorkOnes. Technical assistance has included: sharing are reviewing the MSFW-program performance (equity ratios), monitoring local one-stops to ensure proper provisions are being met, working with local Boards to connect and engage with agricultural employers, awareness of farmworker activity in each region, and inviting local Boards to conduct outreach with the state team during the peak season.