In just two months of operation, the program has been changing the lives of the company’s teammates and their families.
Upward Academy is a workforce education program developed by Tyson Foods with a focus on reducing the social impact of social challenges for its front-line team members by providing free and accessible classes in English as a Second Language (ESL), high school equivalency, U.S. citizenship and other essential life and workplace skills such as digital and financial literacy. Dakota City is the 40th plant where the company has expanded Upward Academy.
Northeast’s Adult Education Department is working with Tyson in providing instructors to teach classes, which are all held in the Tyson Dakota City facility, allowing team members to participate before or after their shifts in familiar surroundings. Three large rooms are being utilized to offer the programs. Classes are a part of the team members’ benefits package.
At a recent recognition ceremony at the Tyson plant, it was reported that 250 teammates enrolled in the program completed 4,791 instructional hours by attending class three times a week in two hour intervals, however, some students elected to stay for extra sessions. The classes are taught by five Northeast adjunct instructors, Ana Davalos, Melissa Kabali, Dusti Pacheco, Maria Rundquist and Mohamed Warsame.
“This is an accomplishment … a very impressive accomplishment,” said Dan Heffernan, vice president of human resources at Tyson, at the recognition event. “What you have done is phenomenal. It takes a commitment and we are committed to you to make it happen.”
“At Tyson Foods, we are committed to empowering our team members to grow and prosper, and Upward Academy is an innovative example of that commitment,” said Steve Stouffer, group president, Tyson Foods. “We have seen Upward Academy elevate the quality of life for hundreds of our team members and are excited to be launching the program at our Dakota City plant. This is just one of a number of strong programs we offer to benefit team members in our business as well as in their community.”
Approximately 600 of Tyson’s 4,500 team members at the Dakota City plant have enrolled in programs offered through the Upward Academy. As the Tyson workforce is made up of people from all walks of life, the program is open to more than just immigrants; it is offered to assist people regardless of their personal backgrounds.
Also at the recent ceremony, one student was recognized for completing his battery of GED® tests and will receive his diploma. The student has enrolled in welding and auto mechanic courses at Northeast Community College in South Sioux City.
Four students completed more than 60 hours of instruction during the last quarter in the Upward Academy program and 65 students received recognition for achieving consistent attendance and measurable skills gains. This is achieved by moving up one or more levels on post-tests that are given by instructors after the student completes 40 or more hours.
Also during the last quarter, four Tyson students achieved their goal of becoming citizens of the United States by utilizing Northeast’s civics courses offered through the Adult Education Department. Students studied with Davalos in preparation for their interview questions and written exams that were conducted in Lincoln.
“What you are doing is amazing,” said Emily Duncan director of adult education at Northeast. “(Tyson employees in Dakota City) have pretty much doubled the size of the program from last year to this year.”
She encouraged participants to spread the word that the program is available to fellow employees.
“Our goal is to serve more and more people.”
John Blaylock, Northeast executive vice president, said the College is proud to partner with Tyson Foods in the endeavor.
“Tyson’s visionary leadership to provide training to its teammates demonstrates its commitment to its employees and their desire to improve their skills to be a better employee for the organization,” he said. “The Northeast Community College adult education program has provided the foundation for so many students in our region as they look to improve their language and basic skills. It has truly been a pleasure for Northeast to come along side of Tyson to create the Upward Academy in Dakota City.”
As of the end of 2018, the Upward Academy program had been launched at several of Tyson’s plants across the country. The program in Dakota City is the company’s largest to date.
Mohamed Warsame, Northeast Community College adjunct instructor, (right) congratulates Tyson Fresh Meats teammate Carmen Pinto in Dakota City for her achievements as part of Tyson’s Upward Academy as Emily Duncan, director of adult education at Northeast looks on. Pinto is one of 600 teammates enrolled in Upward Academy, a workforce education program developed by Tyson Foods with a focus on reducing the social impact of social challenges for its front-line team members by providing free and accessible classes in English as a Second Language (ESL), high school equivalency, U.S. citizenship and other essential life and workplace skills such as digital and financial literacy.