Frontier Explores J1 Visa Exchange Program

Jun 16, 2021

June 16, 2021 (Lincoln, Nebr.) – One of Frontier Coop’s core values is to “create opportunities.” By recently learning about and committing to an international foreign student exchange program for the next year, that’s definitely in line with what the ag retailer considers a new opportunity.
In mid-June, seven Ukrainian students will join the Frontier Family. They will be working for Frontier Coop for the next 12 months as they are exposed to new techniques, methodologies, and expertise, while enhancing their knowledge of American culture and society.
Members of Frontier Coop leadership collaborated with the Foundation for Worldwide International Student Exchange (WISE), which is a non-profit cultural exchange program offering programs across the globe. As the sponsoring organization, the WISE Foundation helped facilitate the process of matching the Ukraine students with Frontier Coop, handling the recruiting, interviewing, and pre-screening requirements, visa logistics, travel arrangements, and other support as needed.
Many people are familiar with the H-2A visa program that allows U.S. employers to bring in foreign nationals to work in temporary agricultural jobs. However, the J1 visa program is considered more an educational program focused around culture and experience, and Frontier Coop is all about creating experiences.
“The J1 Visa program is a training program,” said Craig Schmuck, program manager for the WISE Foundation. “It shouldn’t be looked at as a source of labor but more as an educational program where you’ll get an exchange of ideas.”
Another key difference is that the exchange students are required to have a specific level of education, or experience, in their field. The students, ages 21 to 28 years old, are from all parts of Ukraine, and a majority of them grew up on a farm. They are either currently enrolled at a university in their home country or have recently graduated with a master’s degree in an agriculture-related field. The intent is that they arrive with a higher-than-average knowledge and experience, in hopes of gaining additional training to take back to share with their home country and communities.
For Frontier, the hope is to help broaden the perspectives of their employees and teach them to think outside the box to find ways to work with different cultures. Along the journey, they want to be able to give their new foreign friends a great experience.
“I strongly believe this program will be a great experience for our employees as they take the lead to participate and provide educational opportunities for the students, while learning about the Ukrainian culture, their customs, and how agriculture is practiced in Ukraine,” says Mike Carroll, VP of People Engagement & Safety, Frontier Coop. “We are very excited to welcome these students.”
The students will be based out of the David City-Yanka and Syracuse branches of Frontier Coop and will be living and working in those communities and surrounding areas. In their first few weeks with Frontier Coop, the Ukrainian students will attend orientation, go through extensive safety training, and obtain driver’s licenses, documentation, and certifications needed to complete their new roles with Frontier. They will also attend a driving program to acquire their CDLs (commercial driver’s licenses).
To help with the transition and new surroundings, Frontier Coop is turning to its personnel and seeking employees and their families to volunteer as guest families to act as a key source of guidance for the international students and help them get comfortable with their surroundings.
Frontier also plans to reach out to community groups, chambers, and other local resources for assistance in getting the word out about the student visitors and helping find ways to get them more accustomed to their new environments.

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