SALINAS VALLEY — Hartnell College announced it has received a multi-year grant of $260,000 from Bank of America that will strengthen its ability to help Salinas Valley agricultural workers succeed and advance in an industry increasingly shaped by technology and automation.
The grant will support Hartnell’s new $2.6 million, three-year Ag Tech Workforce Initiative, which provides training for farm workers so they can move into jobs that require higher skill levels and provide higher pay.
The new courses begin in January and will be free and non-credit for workers in Salinas Valley agricultural production, processing and manufacturing with a focus on the areas known as STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
During the hands-on training, participants will earn $15 to $18 an hour for up to 10 hours a week. The training is expected to lead to full-time job opportunities paying $20-29 per hour, such as food safety technician (in the field and in the plant), human resource technician, frontline agriculture supervisor and small-scale organic farm manager.
Anticipated hiring companies include Taylor Farms, Automated Harvesting LLC, Tanimura & Antle, Dole Fresh Vegetables and Braga Fresh.
Clint Cowden, Hartnell’s dean of Career Technical Education and Workforce Development, said the generous Bank of America grant will be life-changing for workers who participate.
“Bank of America’s focus on racial equity and economic opportunity closely aligns with our own goal of helping workers and agricultural employers adapt to changes in how fresh produce is grown, harvested, packaged and distributed,” Cowden said. “Preparing employees to step into these expanding roles has a ripple effect, not only in their own households but throughout our entire local economy.”
The funding is part of the bank’s five-year, $1.25 billion commitment to advance racial equity and economic opportunity for communities of color disproportionately and other disenfranchised populations disproportionately impacted by the prolonged pandemic.
“The Monterey Bay region is an $8 billion agricultural epicenter, with 80 percent of its field labor force being Hispanic-Latino,” said Jennifer Dacquisto, Bank of America president for the region. “Because the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated existing economic disparities in communities of color, especially so with our local agricultural farm workers, we are investing into the up-skilling and reskilling of this critical labor force through partnerships with local institutions like Hartnell College. Their Ag Tech Workforce program will go a long way to help those most at risk of job disruption as the ag industry evolves.”
For more information about the Ag Tech Workforce program at Hartnell College, visit hartnell.edu/academics-affairs/academics/cte/agtech/.
Article submitted by Scott Faust, Communications Director for Hartnell College.