GOLDSBORO, NC – Wayne Community College and Smithfield Foods have been honored with a national award that recognizes exceptional work among community colleges.

They were presented a trophy as a finalist in the “outstanding college/corporate partnership” category of the American Association of Community Colleges’ Awards of Excellence.

The AACC Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award honors local, regional and national collaboration between a college and corporate partner that has achieved demonstrable, multi-year success in advancing the mission of the institutions, the economic prosperity of a community, region or the nation, and the learning excellence of students.

The team was recognized for its apprenticeship model during the 2023 Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado last week.

“Ever since 2019, the partnership between WCC and Smithfield Foods has been nothing short of incredible. The recognition that has been bestowed upon us by the AACC is a true honor, but that pales in comparison to the honor of developing these men and women in the skilled trades and changing their lives for the better. I look forward to continuing this partnership for years to come,” said Smithfield Foods Talent Development Training Specialist Clarence Scott Jr.

Within six months of the creation and implementation of the Smithfield Foods apprenticeship program at WCC, it turned into a model that has been replicated across the United States. There are now community colleges in seven states – North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Virginia, and Kentucky – training maintenance technician apprentices for Smithfield.

Currently, 29 Smithfield Foods apprentices are studying at WCC in four Maintenance Technician cohorts (the first of which will graduate in May 2023) and a “Farm Leadership” apprenticeship for hog producers.

“We might not be as big as some community colleges but we are making waves and being recognized for the great things we are doing,” said Apprenticeship Coordinator Kristie Sauls. “It was an honor to be on stage with WCC President Patty Pfeiffer, Smithfield Foods Talent Development Training Specialist Clarence Scott Jr. and Smithfield Foods Vice President of Community Development Steve Evans.”

“I was honored to represent Wayne Community College at the AACC Awards Gala as a finalist in the Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership category,” said Pfeiffer. “I thank our corporate partner Smithfield Foods for working so closely with WCC to develop an apprenticeship model that is a now a national model.”

“The partnership we have developed with Smithfield Foods will positively impact the company’s industrial maintenance needs while also providing student-employees with the opportunity to earn a college degree and journeyman’s certificate,” Pfeiffer said.

WCC was the only North Carolina community college honored in any category in the Awards of Excellence competition this year.

This is the fifth time that WCC has been honored as a finalist for an AACC Award of Excellence. The other times were in 2018 in the “student success” category for its completion strategies, 2019 in the “outstanding college/corporate partnership” category for its partnership with UNC Health Wayne and in the “student success” category for its Clearing a Path to Student Success (CAPPS) initiative, and in 2020 again for the CAPPS program, for which it won the award.

The team of Broward College (Florida) and Bank of America won this year’s Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award.

The AACC’s Awards of Excellence underscore the association’s priorities and bring national visibility to outstanding practices among its member colleges. The winners were chosen by a select committee of the AACC board of directors.