in HortScience

Hispanic agricultural workers are difficult to reach and educate. Many can't benefit from Extension programs because of the language barrier, education level and social factors. Safety (WPS) and Pesticide Applicator certification are required for workers to find employment and advance. In Florida, the total non-fatal agricultural occupational injuries among Hispanic workers rose 33% between 1999 and 2001, and total fatal injuries rose 18% between 1999 and 2002. Florida laws require that pesticide applicator exams be in English. Many Hispanics have experience and knowledge in pesticide use, but lack of sufficient language skills prevents their becoming certified. The University of Florida is addressing this issue with an extension agent whose main responsibility is to design and deliver programs in Spanish. First, we assessed the needs and started networking within the Hispanic community. Concurrently, training programs were developed in WPS and 7 certification categories in greatest demand. These have been offered in 11 south Florida counties to 4000+ workers. After each class, presentations were modified to incorporate effective content and methods, based on surveys and test scores. Among participants who took an exam, the passing rate has risen from below 50% to above 60%. The following have given good results: use two native speakers (Spanish and English); conduct the class in Spanish, but emphasize written and spoken English words; both trainers must interact with the audience; use props or good illustrations; teach at all levels, but recommend the exam only to those who can read an English label.

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