Tyson Foods’ Upward Academy, an in-plant education program that provides classes at no cost, recently surpassed 100,000 hours of instruction to more than 1,000 of the company’s team members. 

Upward Academy launched in 2016 at one of the company’s plants in Springdale, Arkansas, and is now offered in 27 facilities in Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and North Carolina. Forty plants are projected to offer the program by the end of September 2018, and expansion will continue over the next several years to cover the company’s entire footprint. 

“What began as a pilot program two years ago quickly evolved into a critical investment in our front-line team members that we’re now actively expanding,” said Debra Vernon, senior director, corporate social responsibility at Tyson Foods. “We’re proud of the thousands of hours of instruction that have been offered, but the impact on our team members is truly immeasurable.”

In partnership with local community organizations, Upward Academy provides team members with important life skills by offering free and accessible classes in English as a Second Language (ESL), General Educational Development (GED), citizenship and other essential life and workplace skills. In addition, driver education, computer literacy and financial literacy classes have also been offered at some locations. 

An Upward Academy student who was recently surveyed about the program said, “It changes my life in a big way, mostly at home, where I will be able to assist my daughter with her homework. I want to set an example on how important education is in her life.”


Student’s progress is tracked through standard assessment testing via the Adult Education National Scale for federally funded adult education programs.  

“We are grateful to Tyson Foods for making a real commitment to literacy and workplace education,” said Patty Henson Sullivan, executive director, Ozark Literacy Council, based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “Through Upward Academy’s leadership, we not only deliver classes, but we have access to best practices and research so that we can monitor, grow and adapt to team members’ needs and create advancement opportunities.”

A survey of 200 Upward Academy participants from 12 locations revealed the following: 

  • 88 percent reported improved communication with people in the community.
  • 86 percent reported improved communication with supervisors since starting classes.
  • 85 percent reported increased satisfaction at work.

Other Upward Academy highlights include:

  • Investing in Tomorrow, an eight-week financial literacy pilot program, was launched in two plants to help team members better understand how to navigate both their personal finances and the U.S. financial system as a whole.
  • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Career Education recognized Upward Academy as a Champion for Arkansas’ workforce. 
  • Tyson Foods Chaplain Moises Chan was named the Ozark Literacy Council’s Barbara Broyles Champion of Literacy for the integral role he played in promoting and developing the literacy program at one of the company’s plants in Springdale, Ark.