Recruitment in Vermont is challenging because migrant families are moving into one of the most rural areas of the nation. In order to successfully accomplish our mission - to find every migrant child in the state and enroll them in the program - VMEP relies rely heavily on the cooperation and support from other parties. Consequently, one of the most important aspects of recruitment for VMEP is building strong relationships throughout Vermont so that individuals and agencies make active referrals to the program.
Aside from building program recognition, the recruiter's three primary roles are to locate, interview and enroll eligible families. The client population is by nature transient and not highly visible, so recruiters need a certain amount of persistence to get the job done.
Recruitment staff are the “face of the program” because they are often the very first staff members to visit migrant families. Recruiters must be responsive to a wide variety of conditions; some visits may require no action while others may call for an immediate referral to other staff or agencies. Not only is it challenging to locate families, but with Vermont's changing farm labor population there are also cultural and language barriers. All recruitment staff members are bilingual, speaking English and Spanish languages.
Each recruitment specialist is assigned to a specific region of the state and responsible for locating families, determining eligibility status, and submitting necessary documentation prior to student enrollment in the program.
Local schools are the primary source of referrals to the Vermont Migrant Education Program, and prior to each new school year and throughout October, recruiters spend their time visiting every school in their assigned region.
When a new student enrolls in a new school we ask that the "Agricultural Employment Survey" (available in both English and Spanish) be distributed along with the school's required enrollment forms. Completed by the family, this form is returned to the school and then forwarded to the Identification and Recruitment Office for review. This information helps identify who is moving into and around the state, and working in agriculture. If the family checks off that they are working in the agricultural field, it is our cue to contact the family and see if they are eligible for our educational services.
During early spring and through the summer, many migrant families and workers move on to new jobs. This is when recruiters make farm visits which helps lead them to new students. Not only is it important for recruiters to know their regions "like the back of their hand," but to meet and befriend the farming community is equally important. These relationships bring some of the most consistent and straightforward referrals. When a farmer knows about the Vermont Migrant Education Program and informs a recruiter it is a sure sign that outreach efforts are working.
Recruiters also visit social service agencies. The Farmworkers Program, Women Infants Children (WIC), Economic Services Division (formerly PATH) offices, Central Vermont Community Action Councils (CVCAC) and Adult Basic Education Agencies are all on the list of agencies the recruiters regularly visit. There is also an entire network of drop-in centers, food pantries, grain/feed dealers, laundromats, general stores and other public locations where recruiters post informational ads with a local number to call for assistance.