GOLDSBORO — Smithfield Foods is the latest company to partner with Wayne Community College to develop an apprenticeship program.
The new apprenticeship program is aimed at developing the next generation of experienced professionals for skilled trades at Smithfield Foods. It provides internal candidates, high school graduates, and military veterans with hands-on engineering and mechanic training while they are earning their associate degree. The participants will receive free college tuition, salary, and benefits as they progress through the program.
“The workforce is changing rapidly, and we understand the importance of preparing the next generation of manufacturing professionals with an adaptable and diverse skill set,” stated Lisa Swaney, chief human resources officer for Smithfield Foods.
“Our new apprenticeship program provides a unique opportunity for emerging talent to develop a strong understanding of the field and, ultimately, a long and prosperous career with Smithfield,” Swaney said.
Smithfield launched the apprenticeship program with Wayne Community College in Goldsboro and plans to expand the initiative nationwide by partnering with colleges near Smithfield facilities.
“This program is a great example of how industry and education, when working together, develop a workforce,” said Craig Foucht, executive director of Wayne Business and Industry Center at Wayne Community College.
Company officials said that the program represents Smithfield’s continued commitment to recruiting top talent and providing fulfilling careers for its employees.
“With increasing automatization, both physical and digital, it is more critical than ever to have a workforce with the right skills,” expressed Howard Anderson, chief engineer for Smithfield Foods. “This apprenticeship program will be a key source of new talent for our organization.”
The apprentices will train alongside experienced technicians at Smithfield’s facilities in Clinton, Kinston, and Wilson and study at WCC.
“Through this apprenticeship program, individuals will learn theory in the classroom and practical application on the job. This is one of the best models for learning and will help develop a pipeline of qualified individuals for our partner,” Foucht commented.
“This validates that what we do in our classrooms is industry relevant.”
The apprentices are working toward associate in applied science degrees in Industrial Systems Technology at WCC and journeyman’s certificates. Additionally, Foucht said, “the ability to provide for your family is probably the best opportunity we are providing for you.”
Swaney noted that the program also gives the apprentices “the opportunity to really grow with the company.”
To celebrate the program’s kickoff, the college and Smithfield held a Signing Day event recently at the college at which the students accepted their apprenticeship positions and were congratulated by local officials.
The apprentices are working and training at three facilities in the area surrounding Wayne Community. Timothy Hyde of Clinton, Hector Salinas of Mount Olive, Issai Luna of Clinton, Mark Kramer of Dunn, and Dakota Matheny of Goldsboro are at the Clinton facility. Stephen Heffernan of Kinston, Daniel Diperna of Goldsboro, and Maryland Elliott of Goldsboro are at the Kinston facility. Carl Gary of Smithfield and Dwayne Jones of Wilson are at the Wilson facility.
In addition to WCC, Smithfield also partnered with NCWorks, a resource for job seekers and employers in North Carolina, and ApprenticeshipNC, a platform that enables businesses to create flexible and effective training and hiring solutions.
Smithfield is also working with Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska, to launch the apprenticeship program there next year.
Several other companies have sponsored apprenticeships with WCC, including Mount Olive Pickle Company, Franklin Baking Company, SPX Transformer Solutions, Team Chevrolet of Goldsboro, Hubert Vester Chevrolet of Wilson, and Linamar Forgings Carolina. With 10 apprentices, Smithfield has the largest cohort studying at the college at one time.
Across North Carolina, 700 employers have registered apprenticeships, noted Dale Yarborough, a field consultant with ApprenticeshipNC, during the signing ceremony.
“Apprenticeship is catching on. It is no longer a buzz word. It is real. It is happening,” Yarborough expressed. “It is a challenge to find talent. Smithfield has decided to grow their own.”
A new report from the NC Community College System, which administers ApprenticeshipNC, said that during the 2019 fiscal year, 11,399 people were served by that program, an increase of 31 percent over the previous year.
Nationwide, there are more than 23,400 registered apprenticeship programs training more than 585,000 apprentices, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.
To learn more about Smithfield’s careers, visit smithfieldfoods.com/careers.