WENATCHEE — Training started Tuesday for this year’s crop of cherry inspectors.
The state Department of Agriculture is hoping to recruit a few more in the Wenatchee, Chelan and Brewster areas.
The state agency typically hires more than 100 inspectors to visit warehouses in Brewster, Chelan, Wapato, Wenatchee, Pasco and Yakima to inspect and certify fresh cherries at shipping points for domestic and foreign markets. About a quarter of the inspectors return each year for the season that lasts six to eight weeks, WSDA commodity inspection manager Robert Newell said Tuesday in an email. The training is offered in Wenatchee and Yakima.
This year, several positions are still open as training week begins.
“We plan on continuing to recruit in Wenatchee, Chelan and Brewster for the next two weeks,” he said. “We are no longer accepting applications for Wapato and Yakima. We will continue to provide training as we onboard additional applicants.”
For returning inspectors, training is a one-day refresher course, WSDA spokeswoman Amber Betts said in a May 25 news release.
“For first-timers, this is a three-day endeavor where we will teach you grade and sampling procedures; how to identify defects, what the grade requirements are, how to sample the products, what the cherry crushing process looks like, and how to best communicate with the facility where you are inspecting,” she said.
Inspectors also learn about inspection documents, how to enter sample information into the computer program, create accurate documents and issue shipping permits.
It’s unusual to have openings at this point, Newell said.
“This year, we just aren’t seeing the numbers we usually do,” he said. “It is difficult to say why we are seeing a workforce shortage, but we have seen less applicants this year than in years past. We provided application information to colleges, high schools and the Employment Security offices.”
In an effort to fill all the spots, WSDA bumped up the wages from $15 an hour to $17.24 an hour.
“We’ve had to get creative by increasing the starting wage, and increasing our recruitment efforts,” Betts said.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license and a GED or high school diploma. The job requires working cooperatively in a fast-paced team environment and reliable transportation is a must.
“If you also have the ability to use good judgment, tact, and withstand stressful situations, this is the job for you,” Betts said.
Inspectors are expected to produce accurate and quality work, paying attention to detail as they inspect and certify fresh cherries, making sure the grade and condition of the cherries meet the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and WSDA.
“By working together with our industry partners, we continue to keep Washington state cherries a sought after product worldwide,” Newell said.
For details, go to wwrld.us/wsdajob.