When talking about different types of employees, one term you might hear quite frequently is “seasonal workers.” But who is considered a seasonal worker? What is the experience of a seasonal worker like? Let’s break that down. 

Defining Seasonal Worker

A seasonal worker is anyone who is employed in a temporary employment situation that repeats yearly around the same time. The labor a seasonal worker performs is generally exclusive to a certain season of the year in a certain place which is why the work is temporary. 

There are various types of seasonal workers but some of the most common industries for seasonal workers are farming and agriculture, tourism, and construction. 

In terms of location, seasonal workers are employed all over the country. California is one state with a large number of seasonal workers in its labor force. Seasonal farmworkers in California are essential for producing and harvesting the massive amounts of produce grown in the state. 

Since farms are often busiest during one time of year, farm work is one of the most common types of seasonal employment. Seasonal workers on farms are often assigned one specific task such as prepping the land, tending the plants, or harvesting the produce. There won’t be much seasonal farm employment available outside the harvest season.

Comparing Migrant Workers and Seasonal Workers 

Now, you may be wondering, “what is the difference between a seasonal worker and a migrant worker?” Many people use those terms interchangeably but seasonal workers and migrant workers are not the same. 

A migrant worker is simply a person who relocates from one country to another to pursue an employment opportunity. 

Many people associate the term migrant worker with agricultural workers- people tending to livestock on an employer’s farm or harvesting crops on a farm. These are certainly some migrant worker examples (and likely the most common) but there are also migrant workers in service occupations, production facilities, and other industries. 

So, some migrant workers may work alongside seasonal workers, depending on the industry in which they are employed. 

Migrant workers can have a lot in common with seasonal workers but the key difference between the two groups is that seasonal workers are generally able to return from work each night to their place of permanent residence while migrant workers are not. 

The Seasonal Farmworker Experience

As you might expect, the experience of seasonal workers varies greatly by person but many seasonal workers do face significant struggles. 

Working as a seasonal worker isn’t exactly like working as someone with permanent employment in many cases. 

Because the employment is, by nature, temporary, seasonal workers can struggle to find work during the off-season. This can lead to problems supporting themselves and/or their families even though they’d like to be working.  

Seasonal workers can also be subject to especially dangerous or unsanitary working conditions. Some seasonal workers are forced to work incredibly long hours in harsh weather without appropriate break allowances. 

Depending on various factors, seasonal workers may not feel comfortable reporting the mistreatment they endure at their workplaces. This can mean they are not paid all of the money they are owed (because employers know they can take advantage) and the dangerous conditions cannot be addressed.   

These unethical employment standards and poor treatment from their employers are simply not acceptable. That’s why the United States has put laws and programs in place like the National Farmworker Jobs Program and The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) to help migrant and seasonal workers. 

The National Farmworker Jobs Program at CET

The National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) is a national program from the US Department of Labor that aims to provide career services and training to seasonal and migrant farmworkers.

Seasonal and migrant farmworkers in the US can take advantage of this program to gain new skills that will help them secure a better economic future for themselves and their dependents. Learn more about a couple of the success stories of CET students who have participated in the NFJP by clicking here and here.

The Center for Employment Training (CET) is proud to participate in the NFJP. We offer occupational skills training programs that many seasonal and migrant farmworkers participate in including Accounting Clerk, Electrician, HVAC Technician, and Medical Assistant.

Any farmworkers interested in learning more about the grants available through the NFJP or the program offerings at CET, reach out. We’d be happy to help!