The Hispanic Orchard Employee Education Program (HOEEP) is now an I-BEST program according to the Wenatchee Valley College. I-BEST or Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training Program is a nationally recognized model that quickly boosts students’ literacy and work skills so that students can earn credentials, get living wage jobs, and put their talents to work for employers. is a nationally recognized model that pairs two instructors in the classroom—one to teach college-level academic or technical content, and the other to teach basic skills in reading, math, writing or the English language.
The HOEEP is made up of seven 19-credit certificate programs and includes one instructor who teaches ag management skills and another that teaches basic skills. HOEEP increases the professional abilities of employees and their contributions through greater understanding of horticultural science, production technology, English language and communication skills, math and computer skills, plus cultural and social systems. The program is referred to as the Latino Ag Education Program (LAEP) in the wine and grape industry.
The Wenatchee Valley College now provides 10 I-BEST programs, the most offered in the state and the HOEEP counts as seven I-BEST programs; the other three include the early childhood education certificates (initial and short), and a certified nursing assistant certificate.
Aaron Parrott, WVC Adult Basic Skills coordinator said, “It’s proven so successful that over 20 states have asked Washington State to help them adopt I-BEST in their collegiate systems. Research shows that successful I-BEST completers earn better wages, get placed into better jobs and achieve higher rates of academic transition.”
HOEEP is often sponsored by employers, and lab practicums take place in industry and employer partner facilities, and orchards and vineyards with between 60 to 80 students graduating each year. HOEEP was based on I-BEST principles even before an official designation. For over 21 years, the HOEEP has received industry, state and national recognition and was recently featured as a best practices educational session at the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Leadership Congress in Seattle. Longtime instructors Leo Garcia and Francisco Sarmiento have been credited with being instrumental to the success of the program.
“The HOEEP program has been I-BEST since before I-BEST existed,” said Parrott.
Students in HOEEP and their employers have praised the benefits of the program. WVC student Andres Martinez said of HOEEP, “I learned the why of the orchard practices. For example: why we train trees. Now that I know, I can apply what I learned on a daily basis. I also feel more confident to communicate in English and Spanish.” Darin Case of Dovex Fruit said, “This program has been the vehicle for some of our employees to acquire the technical expertise necessary to achieve key positions within our organizations. I have seen employees move from irrigators to crew bosses and to orchard managers.”