Learning about the details of the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) is all well and good but to truly understand what the NFJP does, it helps to read about the impact the program has on real people’s lives.  

One person whose life has been permanently changed for the better because of the NFJP is Maria del Pilar Rodriguez. This is her story. 

Pilar’s NFJP Success Story

Before enrolling in a job training program at the Center for Employment Training (CET) through the NFJP, Pilar was working in agriculture. She had been harvesting strawberries, raspberries, squash, and other produce for more than 20 years and yet was still making only $11 per hour. 

At that level of income, she was barely able to support herself and even had to take on extra work to make ends meet. To make matters worse, she was going through a torturous divorce that affected her finances, her housing, and her overall quality of life. 

Pilar is a survivor of domestic violence and her abusive husband had never allowed her to learn English or to pursue any other education. Because of this, she was at a cultural and educational disadvantage going into an uncertain future. 

Thinking back to her time in the raspberry fields, looking at the older workers, Pilar recalls she thought “I don’t want to be like them: stooped and feeble but toiling endlessly, ravaged by season after season of hard labor, and taken advantage of by the younger generations of harvesters.”

But what could she do to change her life? 

It was definitely a turning point, and she turned to CET for a better future. Pilar set her self-doubt aside to meet with the admissions staff at CET and enrolled in job training.

Through funding from the NFJP, Pilar was able to attend the job training classes she needed to work toward a new career. That doesn’t mean she didn’t still struggle, though. 

Recently divorced, Pilar had to find ways to support herself and her son while attending her job training courses. Luckily, she found that attending classes 8:00 AM-3:00 PM Mon – Fri was best for her. In the afternoons and evenings, she worked in two different places. It was quite the balancing act. 

There was a time when Pilar even considered abandoning the program and her dreams of a better life to be able to take on additional work. She had already completed a significant portion of her 720 hours of training but she wasn’t sure she’d be able to finish them. 

Pilar’s instructors and the CET administrative staff were aware of her struggles and provided support however they could. With their help, Pilar persevered and was even able to quit her afternoon/even jobs when she got a weekend custodial job with one of CET’s Technical Advisory Committee members. That position allowed her to devote all her focus to finishing her studies which she eventually did. 

The next step for Pilar after finishing her Cleaning Service and Maintenance Technician (CSMT) training program was to go out into the world and secure a job in her new field. Pilar shyly admits that, when she interviewed for the post-graduation cleaning/maintenance position that she currently occupies, she lacked confidence in asking for a proper salary and was offered a mere $13 per hour to begin.

It wouldn’t be long before she moved up the ladder, though. Pilar dedicated herself to learning more skills and taking on more responsibility and was soon offered the Lead Custodian position at the Santa Cruz fairgrounds making $24 per hour plus benefits. 

Pilar is infinitely grateful to her CET instructors and staff, without whom she believes she would not have attained such success. Today, Pilar shows herself and her son what is possible when you break free from obstacles and pursue your goals. She continues to seek out opportunities to learn and grow, focusing next on bettering her English skills and attaining her GED.

Are you ready to change your life?

You, too, can change your life with a job training program at CET. If you qualify under the NFJP, you may not even need to pay out of pocket for your training. You can learn more about the NFJP grant on our dedicated page for Farmworker Admissions.

Reach out today to learn more about the variety of job training programs available at CET and how they can brighten your future. You’ll be glad you did!