With the help of a Community Innovation Grant awarded to South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension in July 2016, Maristela Rovai, assistant professor and SDSU Extension dairy specialist, recently traveled to Puerto Rico to host recruitment meetings to help fill labor shortages faced by South Dakota dairies.
"The dairy industry faces a labor shortage, so we are working to help connect South Dakota dairy farmers with legal Puerto Rico workers in need of employment," Rovai explained.
SDSU Extension is working with the Upper Midwest-Puerto Rico Educational Collaborative project to build capacity for the South Dakota dairy industry by creating a path to recruit legal Puerto Rican workers.
During the recruitment meetings, which were held in various locations across Puerto Rico, Rovai met with government officials and interested employees to explain expectations, answer questions and develop an open dialogue, which will hopefully result in employment on South Dakota dairies.
"Because of the high rate of unemployment in Puerto Rico (12%), there is a real interest in work on dairies in South Dakota," Rovai said, adding that many who attended the recruitment meetings have agricultural work experience and expressed an interest in learning new skills.
Moving forward, Rovai and the SDSU Extension team are available to help dairies in training their employees.
"Our collaborative proposal includes the possibility of developing a comprehensive training program in Spanish to address not only current industry standards and best management practices in dairy farming but also social and cultural differences," Rovai said.