SMITHFIELD, VA. — Smithfield Foods donated $1 million to launch the Southeastern Education and Economic Development (SEED) apprenticeship program in North Carolina.

SEED is a comprehensive youth apprenticeship program through a partnership between Smithfield Foods and the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE) that provides career pathways and college education for high school students in southeastern North Carolina counties.

"Today's high school students are tomorrow's workforce," said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. "Youth apprenticeship programs like the SEED initiative will provide students with an opportunity to learn valuable skills while getting on-the-job training. Our top-tier workforce is the reason North Carolina is ranked the best state for business for two years in a row, and we need to ensure they graduate with the necessary skills to be successful in our growing economy."

During the program’s first year, SEED will assist students in a career pathway for industrial technology. Students will take up to 15 hours of transferable community college classes at Lenoir or Wayne Community Colleges and participate in paid work-based learning training on industrial maintenance. SEED will provide students with pay rates of $15 per hour for 30 hours of work per week and a monthly stipend of $350 for materials and transportation. Upon graduation, students can continue into a registered apprenticeship program, working towards an associate degree in Industrial Technology.

Smithfield's recent donation is part of the company's ongoing investment in North Carolina. In 2023 alone, Smithfield donated $2 million and over 1 million lbs of food — the equivalent of more than $5 million — to 130 North Carolina nonprofit organizations.

"Smithfield is strongly committed to making sure students have educational opportunities that will fuel their careers in the years ahead," said Steve Evans, vice president of community development for Smithfield. "Our goal is to develop the next generation of leaders through supporting education in our communities, and the SEED program is a great way to help these students jump-start their early career development."