The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has named Wayne Community College a finalist in its Awards of Excellence category for Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership with Smithfield Foods.
WCC and Smithfield Foods are being recognized for the apprenticeship model developed and implemented by the two in 2019. The model has since been replicated by Smithfield Foods nationwide.
“It is an honor for WCC to be selected as a finalist for an Award of Excellence with Smithfield Foods,” said WCC Executive Director of Apprenticeships and Career Development Kristie Sauls. “WCC’s relationship with Smithfield Foods continues to grow as we work to bring awareness to good-paying jobs here in eastern NC.”
Currently, there are 29 Smithfield Foods apprentices in four different cohorts studying at WCC. The first cohort of seven maintenance technicians graduated in the spring of 2023, and the sixth cohort will begin in the fall of 2024.
“Apprenticeships provide an opportunity for students to learn while they earn by combining classroom learning with on-the-job training. They help accomplish the long-range goal of having highly skilled workers,” Sauls explained. “It is not about filling a worker shortage today but rather a means to increase highly skilled employees for tomorrow.”
The success of the partnership led Smithfield Foods to donate toward the Southeastern Education and Economic Development (SEED) initiative, a youth apprenticeship program providing career pathways and college education for high school students. WCC will serve as a pilot community college for the program.
“The apprenticeship works so well because, at the end of the day, we have the same goals. We are both working to fill an industry need for training and retaining skilled staff, and more importantly, we want to offer people an opportunity to excel in their careers and improve their lives,” said Smithfield Foods Talent Development Training Specialist Clarence Scott.
“This is a life-changing program for everyone involved. Both Wayne Community College and Smithfield Foods understand the program’s importance and are fully invested in its success. That is what makes it such a wonderful partnership,” said Scott.
The AACC Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award honors local, regional, and national collaboration between a college and corporate partner that has achieved demonstrable, multi-year success in advancing the mission of the institution(s), the economic prosperity of a community, region, or the nation, and the learning excellence of students.
“Being recognized as a finalist for this award exemplifies the benefit of partnerships between business and industry and colleges,” said WCC President Patty Pfeiffer. “We are proud to work hand in hand with Smithfield Foods to develop a highly skilled workforce to meet their needs while providing high-quality education and training.”
Scott agreed: “This validates the collaborative work we have been doing together, and it’s gratifying to be recognized.”
WCC is the only community college in NC to be a finalist in the AACC’s 11 awards categories. The other finalists for the Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award are Montgomery College in Maryland, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, and San Jacinto College District in Texas.
This is the sixth time that WCC has been a finalist for an AACC Award of Excellence.
The winner will be announced at the Awards of Excellence Gala during the AACC Annual Conference on Apr. 8 in Louisville, Kentucky.