In 2017, Petrit Kwa was living and working over 8,000 miles away from the U.S. city of Waterloo, Iowa. Six years later, Petrit now calls Waterloo home and is proudly working as a Maintenance Electrical Engineer at the Fresh Meats facility while completing coursework to earn his GED through Tyson Foods’ Upward Academy Online.
Petrit’s determination and unwavering commitment to his family led him to journey to the U.S. alone through the United Nations Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Resettlement program and later to start his career in Waterloo. When Petrit was notified about the educational opportunities available to him through Upward Academy Online, he jumped at the chance to continue his education and professional growth at Tyson Foods.
Petrit is just one of more than 2,800 total students, nearly two-thirds of which are frontline team members, who have taken advantage of Upward Academy Online, an expansion of Tyson Foods’ existing Upward Academy program. Through Tyson’s partnership with career opportunity company Guild and its four-year $60 million milestone investment, U.S. team members have the opportunity to attain master’s, undergraduate and associate degrees, careers certificates, and literacy and technology fundamentals through select programs, all fully funded by Tyson Foods.
“Upward Academy Online is a great program because Tyson Foods pays for it in its entirety, and classes are online, making it more accessible for full-time team members. You can stay home and complete coursework through your phone… even though you have a family, you’re still able to do it. This is the type of opportunity I’ve been waiting for ever since I got here,” Petrit said.
Since partnering with Guild and expanding Upward Academy offerings online, Tyson Foods is celebrating the incredible accomplishments of participating team members, program milestones, and the continued growth of the program to come as the company listens to team member needs.
“At Tyson Foods, we strive to create a positive work environment where our team members have the tools and resources they need to be successful and the opportunities to advance their personal and professional goals at Tyson Foods,” said Donna Davis, Senior Manager of Employee Social Responsibility at Tyson Foods. “The launch of Upward Academy Online has been instrumental in ensuring equity and opportunity among all our team members, and I’m excited to be a part of the future of the program.”
Personal and professional team member growth has remained a top priority for the company since the inception of Upward Academy in 2016. Originally designed as an onsite adult education program, Tyson Foods recognized the growing need for expanded education offerings to improve career mobility opportunities.
That’s why the company partnered with career opportunity company Guild to not only expand Upward Academy’s educational offerings, but also allow team members easy access to the curriculum and courses they need to succeed. Since launching Upward Academy Online, Tyson Foods has:
- Expanded language course offerings, including the addition of Spanish, French, and a continuous learning tool for English language learning.
- Launched a career mobility project with new degree programs in HR (Human Resources), cybersecurity, field management, supply chain, and project management to further support team members’ career advancement and promote internal mobility.
- Opened the first Upward Learning Lab in Madison to provide a designated, on-site space and equipment for team members to access program resources online.
- Launched a pilot program at seven facilities to provide team members with access to low-to-no-cost devices and internet access.
The program currently offers more than 250 education programs across 35+ high-quality schools and universities across the country, with available courses and curriculums focusing on three primary areas of growth: key business priorities such as foundational learning and key skills, functional learning programs such as ESL, and programs in priority skilling areas including leadership and management, supply chain, agriculture, and sustainability. Since January 2023, Upward Academy Online has added 67 news programs and nine new learning providers.
“We’re inspired by Tyson Foods team members like Petrit and so many others who are seizing opportunities to advance their careers through our partnership with the company. Team members are investing in their personal and professional growth and unlocking new pathways for development.” said Terrence Cummings, Chief Opportunity Officer, Guild.
As Tyson Foods celebrates the anniversary of Upward Academy Online, the company is also excited to continue expanding available offerings and continue investments in the future of team members. Most recently, Tyson Foods partnered with the University of Arkansas to launch six new programs for team members to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and certificates in supply chain management, business, human resources management and operational change, among other areas.
“We commend Tyson Foods for its commitment to cultivating a workplace of growth and opportunity through Upward Academy Online and are thrilled to partner with the company on new educational opportunities,” said University of Arkansas Chancellor Charles F. Robinson. “We love to see students of all educational paths shine, and this is just one way we can empower working professionals to reach their career goals.”
To learn more about Upward Academy Online and benefits available to team members, visit tyson.guildeducation.com.