Jul 7, 2023 - News

Tyson Foods adds University of Arkansas to free education lineup

A photo of a sign on a green lawn with a building in the background; the sign indicates the building is Tyson Foods' World Headquarters

Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Tyson Foods announced Thursday that the University of Arkansas is now among 35 colleges where employees can earn a degree or certification at no cost.

  • The company's Upward Academy program covers tuition and books for approximately 120,000 U.S. employees, including about 24,000 in Arkansas.

Why it matters: The company hopes to encourage employees to stay with Tyson by providing pathways to a variety of careers and advancement opportunities, a spokesperson told Axios.

Context: Tyson Foods cited labor shortages last year as one of the drags on its earnings and noted this spring that some of its capital expenditures were for automation to offset "labor challenges."

Tyson increased starting wages to an average of $15.20 per hour in late 2021.

Of note: Walmart's Live Better U program also added the University of Arkansas to its offerings this year.

Details: All education is online and provided through Guild, a third party that also provides services for Walmart's program.

  • U of A offerings for Tyson will include bachelor's degrees in general business, supply chain management and human resources management.
  • Tracks for bachelor degrees in nursing, as well as Spanish and French language programs, are also available from other colleges, along with professional certificates in automation, nanotechnology and management leadership.

Employees are eligible to enroll and begin earning a degree or certificate on the first day of employment with the company, the spokesperson said.

By the numbers: The company claims about 2,600 employees are enrolled in educational programs, but that 13,000 have signed up for accounts in the past year.

  • About 100 employees have completed education programs, mostly for GED certificates and English as a second language courses.

What we're watching: With both Walmart and Tyson Foods offering free education through U of A, it will be interesting to see how the university grows its online offerings and which programs gain the most traction over the next couple of years.

Disclosure: Reporter Worth Sparkman formerly worked at Tyson Foods.

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