Chances are you have a problem getting and retaining team members on your farm. This is just the time we live in. But Janae Metzger has found a program that works well to help keep Pig Hill Farms fully staffed, and get employees with animal sciences degrees. Metzger uses the TN Visa program.
What is a TN Visa?
The TN visa allows North American international workers (Canadian and Mexican) with four to six years of college education in animal sciences to apply to work for one to three years in the United States. Canada has a similar program, referred to as the NAFTA work permit because it’s part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The TN visa application process is rigorous and involves multiple interviews with the consulate, as well as an extensive background check. However, a number of recruiting firms are beginning to specialize in this type of worker for hog farms, so even though the process might sound daunting, it can be quite efficient.
How Does the Hiring Process Work?
When Metzger needs a new employee for a skilled position, she contacts her U.S.-to-Mexico recruiter who is well-versed in Pig Hill's standards and does a wonderful job finding candidates that meet her needs. After she receives their detailed profiles, she can make an informed decision, even though she can’t meet the candidates face to face.
It certainly isn’t a traditional hiring experience, but that’s part of why it works for some producers.
"We've had a great experience using the TN visa program," Metzger said. "The team members that we have had are doing an excellent job, and their education in the field of animal sciences makes caring for our pigs a natural and easy fit."
While Metzger’s experience has been incredibly positive, she has had to make accommodations to work with the program and help her new employees adjust to life in America.
Providing Housing and Support
"We are required to provide them with housing and furniture as well as transportation to and from work," Metzger said. Pig Hill owns a house and rents an apartment that they use for their TN visa employees.
"We have to help them with some basic things like finding a doctor and learning how to navigate the healthcare system in America," Metzger said. New employees come to Pig Hill with little beyond the clothes on their back. It’s up to Metzger to help them study for the driving exam, get access to groceries, and even find a vehicle.
Is it Worth It?
The program isn’t cheap to run due to the extra expenses and labor involved, but for Metzger it has solved a huge hiring need and is absolutely worth it.
"When I think about the extra work that is involved, I just remind myself of how hard it is to find reliable employees," Metzger said. "These individuals were willing to leave their entire lives behind to help my farm succeed. It seems like taking them to an appointment is a small price to pay; not to mention it is what I would want someone to do for me if I were in their shoes."
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