Northwest Arkansas industries need people who can fix and maintain increasingly complex machinery, and they're partnering with northwest Arkansas schools to get them.
Pilgrim's Pride and Cargill have sent a few dozen workers through a year-old industrial maintenance apprentice training program at Northwest Technical Institute's Business and Industry Training Center. Eight people who will take their new skills to Cargill's meat processing complex in Springdale recently completed the program after a month of six-day, 55-hour weeks at the center.
Several of the new apprentices joked they lived at the center and subsisted on coffee and Little Debbie snacks, but they looked forward to a serious payoff: A hefty raise and chances for advancement in a line of work that's in high demand in a heavily automated industry.
"It's a future," said Jose Perez, who's worked at Cargill in various roles for a decade. "Machines are replacing people, so someone's got to take care of the machine."