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Workforce

“It Changed a Lot in My Life”: Tyson Foods’ Workforce Programs

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If it hadn’t been for his cousin, Tagba Djato-Bougonou might never have found Tyson Foods.

In 2017, the engineer was working at a bank in Iowa, where he’d ultimately relocated after emigrating from Togo in West Africa. He was living with his cousin, who was working at Tyson Foods, when the cousin told him about Tyson’s 1+2 Maintenance Program.

“He told me about the good stuff that Tyson has and the 1+2 Maintenance Program and what I could achieve with it,” Djato-Bougonou recalls. “And I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to take a shot with that program.’”

  • Djato-Bougonou, who has an engineering background and a graduate degree from a U.S. university, was quickly hired on as part of the initiative.
  • 1+2 allows new hires to “earn while you learn” by splitting their workdays between a classroom and hands-on work in a Tyson facility. It gets its name from the one year of education and training participants do, followed by the two years they commit to working for the company.

The results speak for themselves: now a full-time project engineer in Tyson’s Fresh Meats department, Djato-Bougonou is also pursuing a Ph.D. in innovation and project management.

Tyson’s workforce initiatives are increasingly designed to find and reward employees like Djato-Bougonou, who come to Tyson with impressive professional backgrounds earned in other countries.

  • “We try to find candidates that, like Tagba, have a deep portfolio outside the U.S. and [whom] we can upskill, with some English and some recertification in the U.S.,” said Tyson Foods Workforce Development Trailblazer Anson Green, who leads economic opportunity efforts, including the in-plant career-development program Upward Pathways.
  • In many of the more rural communities that are home to Tyson plants, “there is no large labor pool to draw from,” Green said. Creating unique paths for non-native-born employees to fill skilled-worker roles is a strategy that has helped fill this void.

The success stories are numerous, including many team members who came to the company to apply for one job but, owing to education or work experience garnered internationally, were able to continue on a professional path they thought they’d had to give up.

  • One team member, formerly a nurse in her home country, is now developing her English skills and preparing for recertification in the U.S. to work at one of Tyson’s onsite health clinics, according to Green.
  • Another team member who now works at a Tyson Foods’ Arkansas plant was previously a legal aide in the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic. With Tyson’s support, she is also developing her English skills and will be applying to work as a paralegal in the company’s corporate office in Northwest Arkansas.

The last word: For Djato-Bougonou and other Tyson team members who have benefited from an encouraging corporate leadership, the sky’s now the professional limit.

  • “I wanted to be part of things which can make a big difference in people’s lives,” Djato-Bougonou said, adding that with the 1+2 Program under his belt, he now feels empowered to do just that. “This program … gave me quite a lot of new skills. It changed a lot of things in my own life.”
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