Career advancement paths for migrant and seasonal farmworkers through new grant to MSU, nonprofit partners, and State of Michigan

Creating ways for farmworkers to gain career-ready skills through hands-on training and professional experiences.

Farmworker drives a tractor on a field

Andrea Weiss | 
Jude Barry | 


Three Michigan State University partners will help develop career advancement opportunities for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in a new $500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.

This funding supports the Michigan Agriculture and Food System Workforce Advancement Initiative (MAFSWAI) to help migrant and seasonal farmworkers be better trained for Michigan food systems jobs and acquire job skills and experience so they can advance along career paths.

The project is directed by Corporation for Skilled Workforce. Michigan State University’s Migrant Student Services (MSS), Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) and Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) are project partners, as well as Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) and Michigan Food and Farming Systems.

“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.

MAFSWAI will create more quality, job-based experiential learning opportunities and credentials for migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

“This collaboration is a great example of MSU delivering on its commitment to serve all individuals in the State of Michigan who desire to expand their personal and professional skills while fulfilling a critical need in Michigan’s agriculture infrastructure,” said Dr. Dorcia Chaison, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Assistant Dean for Academic Advising and Student Success and Interim Director of the Institute of Agricultural Technology. “Three organizations from across campus are partnering with state government and Michigan non-profits to help workers and businesses develop their local economies and make our state a better place to live and work.”

Migrant Student Services specializes in empowering students from migrant and seasonal farm working communities to bring about positive change in their lives, communities, and the world. MSS will support the success of individuals who take part in grant-related training programs.

The Institute of Agricultural Technology delivers innovative, educational programs that develop career-ready graduates through intensive, practical learning and skill enhancement in agricultural, environmental, and applied technologies. IAT will provide training sites and programming for MAFSWAI. Tentatively, the sites will be Monroe Community College, Muskegon Community College, Northern Michigan Community College, and Wayne County Community College.

Center for Regional Food Systems engages in research and outreach to achieve healthier, more economically thriving communities by shifting how food systems work. CRFS is an evaluation partner on the project.

“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. “Developing specific educational programs in food and agriculture systems was among those needs.”

Participants in the program will be afforded the opportunity to gain career-ready skills through hands-on training and professional experiences at the academic as well as professional level. Certificate programs are offered on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, and at 12 partnership locations with several Michigan community colleges. This initiative will address areas of employer and employee needs at the local, state and national levels.

Employers and training organizations interested in advancing the opportunity for farmworkers to attain a certificate, license or degree, and develop the skills needed for career advancement are needed for advisory groups to ensure that the education and training opportunities are relevant.

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.

For more information about the Michigan Agriculture and Food System Workforce Advancement Initiative, Contact Hector Arroyo Jr., State Administrative Manager, at

To learn more about the Michigan Local and Regional Food System Workforce Assessment and Career Pathways work, contact Jude Barry at

This work is funded by United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture award number 2021-67037-34302.

About the MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology

The MSU Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) delivers innovative educational programs that prepare career-ready graduates through practical learning and skill development in agricultural, environmental and applied technologies. IAT certificate programs can be completed in two years, including a required professional internship experience. Programs are offered on MSU’s East Lansing campus and in partnership with several Michigan community colleges.

About MSU Migrant Student Services

Michigan State University Migrant Student Services (MSS) advances education and empowers students and families from migrant and seasonal farmworking communities to bring about positive change in their lives, communities, and the world. Migrant Student Services is composed of six projects that support farmworkers through 1) Identification and Recruitment 2) High School Equivalency Program 3) College Assistance Migrant Program 4) International initiatives 5) National Migrant Scholars Internship & 6) La Cosecha. All projects value collaboration with local, state, and national partners to advance MSS goals.

About the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems

The Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS) works to develop economically-thriving, equitable communities through regionally-rooted food systems. For over a decade, our applied research, education, and outreach have focused on systems that produce healthy, green, fair, and affordable food. Five key values guide our work: collaboration, shared vision, place, equity, and accountability. Learn more at

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