The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency's Employment Training Panel (ETP) awarded a multiple employer contract of $499,060 to Western Growers to train 650 current employees of its member companies.

Western Growers' human resources officials have been working for nearly a year on a strategic plan to provide the association's members' employees with cutting-edge learning and development opportunities. This grant allows the association to employ Western Growers University, which will provide new, state-of-the-art training modules to hundreds of farm workers throughout the state.

The association's vice president of human resources Karen Timmins testified in a closed-door hearing before ETP recently and explained that the association's members are eager to provide learning opportunities for their employees.

“Our members take great pride in developing their workforce,” said Timmins. “As an association, it is imperative that we provide proper tools to our members; this contract allows us to do just that. With it, Western Growers University will be better able to provide new and challenging learning opportunities that will benefit the employees, our members, the association and California as a whole. These funds will enable our members' employees to expand their knowledge base, be it through the development of leadership and supervisory skills or job-specific training, and facilitate an invaluable contribution from Western Growers to the entire agriculture industry.”

Develop curriculum

Since April 2006, Western Growers' human resources' staff has been developing curriculum suitable for the association's members' employees. They have designed numerous interactive, instructor-led workshops comprising modules on: planning, employment law, communications (do and don'ts), coaching, supervision, performance appraisals and practical leadership. In total, there are 18 courses intended to improve the industry's workforce. Additionally, Western Growers University is ready to establish job-specific training modules relating to new regulations and legislation and/or enhanced technology and best business practices.

Western Growers is the first agricultural trade association to be awarded a multiple employer contract, and the first to establish a learning center of this magnitude.

ETP is a business and labor supported state agency that assists employers in strengthening their competitive edge by providing funds to partially off-set the costs of job skills training that is necessary to maintain high-performance workplaces.

California's ETP is a performance-based program, providing funds for trainees who successfully complete approved training programs and are retained in well-paying jobs for a specific period of time.