When it comes to industrial maintenance, there is a critical skills gap for this generation. In fact, nearly 60 percent of Tyson Foods’ maintenance and refrigeration employees are 50-years old or older. Today’s workforce often pursues office jobs, depleting the pipeline of talent for trade-focused employees. Tyson Foods has created a unique approach to shrink the skills gap while creating an easier path for those interested in an industrial maintenance career.

Through our CONNECT 4 PROGRAM, we’re working with local communities to establish new, state-of-the art training facilities and partnering with school districts to develop a student-focused plan that provides critical trade experience before graduation. This program allows students to develop both theoretical and practical knowledge of industrial maintenance, a trade specialty with 85 different skills. The CONNECT 4 program currently links the Arkansas school districts of Berryville, Eureka Springs and Green Forest to introduce high school juniors and seniors to Industrial Maintenance.

This program allows students to spend half their school day in an industrial maintenance pre-apprenticeship to get a head start on their career paths. The program isn’t limited to serving students; community employees can also enroll in night classes through an apprenticeship school or partake training opportunities.

Recently, in Berryville, Arkansas, we worked with Multi-Craft Inc., to convert a 12,000 square foot U.S. Army National Guard Armory into a state-of-the-art mechanical electrical training establishment.

CONNECT 4 offers dedicated areas of instruction including: safety, workplace culture, career readiness skills, electronics, electricity, HVAC, ammonia refrigeration, material handling, robotics, automation, plumbing, basic construction, as well as other related skills that are essential for Tyson Foods’ business operations.

Students can earn certifications in NCCER industrial maintenance, Power Industrial Trucks, safety, machining, metal working, among other related trades. When they’re finished with the program, we also provide the assistance students need to continue their post-graduate studies.

A steady supply of trade skill talent is essential when working in the food industry. Supply chains, plants and transportation all require steady and reliable maintenance. Currently, CONNECT 4 has 29 active high school students, as well as eight Tyson team members enrolled in the Industrial Electrical Apprenticeship at night, and we’re continuing to grow our offerings and develop new training facilities in critical areas across the country.

Published October 25, 2018.

Senior Director of Maintenance and Refrigeration at

Mike Rogers is the Senior Director of Maintenance and Refrigeration for Tyson Foods, Inc. Prior to his current position, he taught agriculture and industrial maintenance at Siloam Springs High School for 20 years. He was the Energy Manager for the Siloam Springs School District for 16 years.

Mike received his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural from the University of Arkansas and minored in Agriculture Mechanics and Poultry Science. In 1997, Mike completed his Master’s in education. Through high school, college, and the first five years of teaching, Mike was employed full-time at Frez-N-Stor in industrial maintenance and anhydrous ammonia. During his 20-year career at Frez-N-Stor, he took refrigeration classes through the Refrigerating Engineers & Technicians Association, received a universal HVAC/R license, and boiler operator’s certification.

Mike holds six additional teaching licenses with the Arkansas Department of Education, including: a technical permit for post-secondary instruction, HVAC, advanced manufacturing, industrial equipment maintenance, machine tool technology, and welding. Mike is an NCCER Master Trainer, and holds three journey level certificates. He was runner up for 2016 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, and currently is a member of the Senate appointed Task Force on Workforce Education.

Positioned with Tyson Foods, Mike’s team travels across the country to train on industrial maintenance, refrigeration, and reliability engineering. His team is also responsible for starting technical programs in proximity to locations critical to Tyson Foods.