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New program hopes to find year round opportunities for seasonal workers
seasonal workers
The Shared Seasonal Workforce Program would partner industries like agriculture with those that need an influx of workers at other times, like fulfillment centers looking to meet holiday demands. - photo by Journal file photo

A pilot program from the Stanislaus Business Alliance is hoping to take traditional seasonal workers, who often are unemployed for stretches of the year, into full time employment by creating a shared workforce among various industries.

The idea of the Shared Seasonal Workforce Program would ideally partner industries like the agriculture and food processing companies with those that need an influx of workers at other times, like fulfillment centers looking to meet holiday demands. The program also would include educational opportunities for those times when jobs are at a low. The goal is to move employees seamlessly from one seasonal position into another, without having to short one job to start another, or enroll for unemployment benefits.

“We knew this concept—if done well—would solve a host of problems and increase the quality of life for an underserved population of our county,” said Alliance Chief Workforce Development Officer Jowanda Collins. “This could go beyond workforce issues and has the potential to make a lasting impact on peoples’ lives.”

A good majority of Stanislaus County’s seasonal employees are attached to the farming sector and work through the harvest season, according to data from the Employment Development Department. Additional need for seasonal employment typically rises in the fall and early winter when retail stores and fulfillment centers are at their busiest.

The program is in the early stages and is hoping to recruit more companies, but a trial run is slated to start in July with several agriculture-based companies and Amazon. The three-round pilot will have up to 200 employees, with requirements including the ability to lift 50 pounds repeatedly, have reliable transportation or access to public transportation, and have a high school diploma/GED or the desire to earn a GED.

The first round of the program will train workers in the agricultural industries as they seek to pick, pack and ship the bounty of crops produced in Stanislaus County. In October those workers who maintained strong attendance and met program standards in round one will go to work for Amazon, where they will have access to educational and training opportunities that include English language tutoring, GED instruction, and skills provision. In January 2017 program participants who continued to meet benchmarks set forth in round two will be enrolled in an educational institution until the next cycle in July 2017.

“There are still a lot of details to be ironed out,” said Collins. “But we see strong potential in this program for our employers and for our seasonal workforce. The Alliance is proud to be at the helm of such a transformative project and we look forward to seeing positive change as a result of its implementation.”