SPRINGDALE, ARK. – Recruiting workers for the meat processing industry was a difficult proposition long before the global pandemic — outbreaks of COVID-19 in food manufacturing facilities only exacerbated the challenge. But Tyson Foods is looking inward for a solution to the company’s labor issues.

The company announced the launch of Upward Pathways, an in-plant career development program that provides front-line team members with job skills training and workforce certifications. The program is designed to strengthen an internal pipeline of skilled workers by providing all Tyson Foods employees access to a robust and equitable career path. Workforce certifications on offer focus on safety training, digital fluency and soft skills, such as time management and leadership skills. Other core curriculum will also be offered, the company said.

“The goal of Upward Pathways is to identify and grow the untapped talent in our front-line workforce,” said Anson Green, who joined Tyson in 2020 after seven years serving as the state director for Adult Education and Literacy for the state of Texas to lead Upward Pathways. “The program represents a strategic effort to bolster career advancement efforts by maximizing the expertise, loyalty and powerful diversity of our front-line workers. The approach leverages our community-based partnerships to deliver education, training and supportive services aimed at increasing the competitiveness of our team members for advancement opportunities.”

The program is a partnership between Tyson, adult education providers and community colleges to establish a standardized promotional career path for team members. Tyson said Upward Pathways will be piloted at 10 of the company’s facilities:

  • Albertville, Ala. (Northeast Alabama Community College)
  • Berryville, Ark. (North Arkansas College)
  • Green Forest, Ark. (North Arkansas College)
  • Portland, Ind. (Muncie Community Schools)
  • Council Bluffs, Iowa (Metropolitan Community College)
  • Finney, Kan. (Garden City Community College)
  • Dakota City, Neb. (Northeast Community College)
  • Omaha, Neb. (Metropolitan Community College)
  • Goodlettsville, Tenn. (Workforce Essentials Inc.)
  • Seguin, Texas (Alamo Colleges District)

Classes are currently available to workers at the company’s Council Bluffs, Iowa, case-ready beef and pork facility. The remaining nine locations will be brought online throughout 2021.

“Our team members are the most important part of our business, and we view it as our responsibility to provide opportunities to grow and thrive in their careers,” said John R. Tyson, chief sustainability officer of Tyson. “We’re excited to launch Upward Pathways as the next step from Upward Academy, which has seen tremendous success in providing resources to team members to help them take control of their own development and professional growth.”

Tammy Green, director of Workforce & IT Innovation, Metropolitan Community College in Council Bluffs, said Upward Pathways is one of the most important projects MCC is working on.

“It is an opportunity for people to find the support they need to participate in advanced educational opportunities,” Green said. “MCC reached out to 1,100 of our program participants, and 86% want to advance in their careers. The partnership with Tyson and the Upward Pathways program will help develop a model to help people advance in their careers using education and career coaching as a tool for success.”

Upward Pathways complements Tyson Food’s Upward Academy program, which focuses on supporting and helping stabilize the lives of team members through the development of general life skills such as English as a Second Language, citizenship, high school completion, digital and financial literacy. Upward Academy is currently in use across 59 plant sites and continues to grow, the company said.