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MCC, Smithfield Foods announce maintenance mechanic apprenticeship program

February 9, 2021
By Lisa Kalell

Smithfield Apprentices

Metropolitan Community College is partnering with Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, to launch a U.S. Department of Labor-registered maintenance mechanic apprenticeship program.

Apprentices who complete the four-year program will earn stackable credentials — an MCC Industrial Technology Apprenticeship certificate, a U.S. Department of Labor Completion of Registered Apprenticeship certificate and journeyman’s license, and a tuition-free MCC Associate in Applied Science degree.

The training will provide candidates with three years of classroom learning and an additional year of hands-on electrical and mechanical experience. Tuition and books will be funded partly by a Missouri Apprenticeships in Manufacturing Program (MoAMP) grant and Smithfield. Apprentices receive salary and benefits as they progress to full-time employees.

Eleven of 12 apprentices (sporting snazzy Smithfield Foods ball caps) were on hand at a kickoff event Feb. 8 at the MCC-Business & Technology campus, along with representatives of Smithfield and MCC. The company hopes to boost the number of apprentices to 15 in the coming weeks.

At that event, Smithfield’s Clarence Scott, a human resource specialist, told the students that "anything easy in this world is not worth having. This apprenticeship is worth having."

"Smithfield clearly has a commitment to innovative processes, and it’s amazing they have taken this step to invest in your future," said Alicia Dickens, MCC associate vice chancellor for workforce and economic development.

Collaborations such as this one are "an important part of fulfilling our MCC mission," added Thomas Meyer, president of the Business & Technology and Blue River campuses. "Kudos to the newly hired apprentices."

Apprentices will train at Smithfield facilities in Kansas City and Milan, Missouri, and Junction City, Kansas.

"When workforce enterprises and higher education join forces, we take great strides toward meeting the needs of our communities and preparing the next generation of skilled professionals," MCC Chancellor Kimberly Beatty said earlier in announcing the partnership.

"MCC’s partnership with Smithfield allows us to do just that, and we look forward to working alongside them to continue developing programs that meet business and economic objectives while also providing our students with the tools they need to succeed."

Schwanzetta Williams, vice president of talent acquisition and diversity and inclusion for Smithfield Foods, said: "Last March, Smithfield launched apprenticeship programs in North Carolina and Nebraska, and we are thrilled to introduce the program to the Kansas City area. This unique program is an integral part of Smithfield’s commitment to develop the next generation of manufacturing professionals, who enable us to fulfill our mission to produce good food, responsibly. We’re excited to welcome our new apprentices in their careers at Smithfield."

Smithfield has successfully launched similar programs with Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska (not affiliated with MCC in Kansas City) and Wayne Community College in Goldsboro, North Carolina.