WCC, Smithfield Foods sign second cohort of apprentices

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GOLDSBORO - Smithfield Foods and Wayne Community College welcomed a second cohort of maintenance apprentices in a signing ceremony recently.

Smithfield launched the maintenance apprenticeship program with Wayne Community College last September with 11 apprentices. The new cohort adds 14 apprentices, a mix of individuals already working for Smithfield and some hired specifically to join the apprenticeship program.

The apprenticeship program is designed to develop the next generation of experienced professionals for skilled trades at Smithfield Foods.

It provides hands-on engineering and mechanic training while the apprentices are working toward associate in applied science degrees in Industrial Systems Technology at WCC and journeyman's certificates. Participants receive free college tuition in addition to salary and benefits as they progress through the program.

Apprentices in the first cohort are working at the Clinton, Kinston and Wilson plants, and should finish their degrees in 2022. The new apprentices will train alongside experienced technicians at Smithfield's facilities in Clinton, Kinston, Tar Heel, and Smithfield, Virginia and study at WCC and should graduate in 2023.

"It is a three- to four-year program because they only attend school part time," said Kristie J. Norton, regional apprenticeship coordinator.

Joel Miller, senior director of engineering at Smithfield, said the current class will replace baby boomers and is the future.

"For the first time, there is a paved path in our company where somebody can come in at the lowest paid job in a plant, become good at what they do, maybe become an operator, be recognized by maintenance, be given an opportunity to go through the maintenance program, earn your AS degree, transfer your AS degree ... use tuition reimbursement to get a bachelor's degree," Miller said. 

"You will be promoted, there is no doubt in my mind that you will. There is no reason why you can't then move to corporate if that is your desire. And you can be the chief engineer, my boss."

The members of the new cohort were chosen from more than 100 applications, said Clarence Scott, Smithfield's talent acquisition specialist for maintenance and engineering.

The new apprentices are working and training at several different facilities. By facility, they are:

Clinton - Noah Durham (Godwin) and Enrique Mendoza (Magnolia);

Kinston - Devin McEntire (Vanceboro);

Tar Heel Distribution Center - Quinn Burrus (Fayetteville), Cristobal Resto (Fayetteville), Brandon Jones (Lumberton), Tyler Schantz (St. Pauls) and Kristen Snead (Dillon, South Carolina).

Smithfield has the largest number of apprentices studying at the college at one time.

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