A win-win partnership

By Alan Campbell

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges is helping build a skilled workforce for an important employer.

Tyson Foods was having a hard time finding skilled technicians for its Columbus Junction, Iowa, plant. The company reached out to Muscatine Community College (MCC) – one of the three Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) institutions – to try and find a solution.

“We held several conversations with them about their need and decided the best solution was to grow their own employees,” said Deb Goodall, EICC dean of continuing education.

The result was a nine-month, 580-hour training program for Tyson employees. Participants get hands-on experience while earning a paycheck. Classes take place in the morning at MCC, and employees work at the plant in the afternoon.

Graduates earn wages that are more than double the average per capita income for the county and Tyson has begun building a new, skilled workforce from their current, local employees.

The current class includes 12 employees, seven new and five incumbent workers. The program has become so successful that the class was filled entirely through word of mouth, no external advertising was needed.

“Our second class of trainees is nearing completion of the course,” Goodall said. “The first class was a huge success with a 92 percent graduation rate.”

Tyson has also supported the program financially with donations to support the purchase of equipment in the program. Training simulators for the program can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 each. To help with that cost, Tyson has committed to donating $15,000 to the college each year the program is offered. The second of those two checks were presented to the college just last month.

The partnership recently gained recognition. EICC received a 2018 International Award for best programming from the Learning Resources Network (LERN), the world’s largest lifelong learning and continuing education association. The LERN award was presented at the association’s national conference attended by nearly 700 lifelong learning and continuing education professionals.

“We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished with this program and believe it can be an example to other companies,” Goodall said. “We can’t thank Tyson enough for their trust in us and support of this program. It’s really been a win-win for both of us.”

Are you growing partnerships with employers in your region? Sound off at LinkedIn.

Alan Campbell

is associate director for marketing  and communications at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges.