The Industrial Maintenance Program graduated its first class on Friday, March 9.

Thirteen students received their certificates of completion during the graduation lunch and ceremony held at the Hotel Pattee. The first-year program is a partnership between Des Moines Area Community College and Tyson Fresh Meats in Perry.

“This program is intended to develop and streamline selected individuals into the Tyson Fresh Meats facility by utilizing the community college and its resources as a vessel into which our industrial maintenance department can grow and excel,” said Christopher Roberts, the maintenance training supervisor at Tyson.

The Industrial Maintenance Program was developed in the summer of 2016. Tyson approached DMACC with the idea of a specialized program offering a combination of coursework and hands-on training at the Perry plant.

“Tyson Fresh Meats has long recognized the necessity of recruiting, developing and training talented individuals in the ever-increasing technical maintenance industry,” Roberts said.

In order to take Tyson’s maintenance department to the next level, he worked with DMACC to develop the program’s curriculum.

“It’s rare that we have a company that comes in like Tyson and knows exactly what they want and is very clear on what the outcome should be. And is willing to partner with us in such a positive way,” said Galen Briggs, the continuing education coordinator at DMACC.

The new program wouldn’t exist, he said, without the support from Tyson.

“It’s a win-win for us. It allowed us to offer a program here in Perry that we couldn’t do before because we didn’t have the facility,” Briggs said.

The 13 students selected for the 1+2 program went to class at the VanKirk Career Academy in Perry for 16 hours every week for nine months. They then went to work at the Tyson plant for 24 hours a week. The graduates will now go on to work at the plant for two years.

Graduate Courtney Wood decided to apply for the program after her sister, Jessica Khalid, was accepted.

“I didn’t think I would get in because I have next to no experience with anything,” she said.“I was told that they taught us and we’re able to do it now. I’m a lot more confident with my ability to do a lot of things.”

Wood liked that they were able to take classes like welding, motor controls, hydraulics and more, through the college and then use what they learned at the plant.

“They taught us what we needed to know when we’re going to be working there. Which is going to be really helpful in the future,” fellow graduate Jason Woodworth said.

The students worked with various groups at the plant to learn the inner workings of the maintenance department.

“From performing fire watch on our welding jobs, to rebuilding trolleys, to working in our instruments departments to tearing down skinners to rebuilding pumps in our rendering department, these team members have been exposed to many areas of our plant,” Roberts said.

They have since received their placements within the maintenance department as they start work as full-time team members.

The program wrapped up its first class on March 9 and Roberts said they will make a few adjustments before the next class starts. He would like to see the class size limited to eight to help the DMACC instructors and with training at the plant.

“We want to say we have a good program that we’re making better. And that in turn will make our maintenance team even better than it was before,” he said.

Still, Roberts was proud to see the first class graduate from the Industrial Maintenance Program on Friday.

“I had the rare privilege to be the supervisor for the 13 individuals that are being rewarded for about the last nine months,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of them grow in different ways and expand a lot of their skills. I look forward to what they get to do in the future and what they get to provide to us as a plant.”