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Five are first to graduate from JBS/Minnesota West program

WORTHINGTON -- Over the past couple of years, JBS worked with Minnesota West Community and Technical College to create an industrial technology program that would teach maintenance skills.

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Christopher Diaz (from left), Justin Brunk, Tyler Bleess, Anthony Bertrand and Evan Gerren pose with their graduation cake Aug. 17 at JBS. Kristin Kirtz/Daily Globe
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WORTHINGTON - Over the past couple of years, JBS worked with Minnesota West Community and Technical College to create an industrial technology program that would teach maintenance skills.

On Aug. 17, JBS employees and Minnesota West leaders gathered to celebrate the first group of five students who graduated from the one-year program.
Anthony Bertrand, Tyler Bleess, Justin Brunk, Christopher Diaz and Evan Gerren were all recipients of a scholarship from JBS to attend Minnesota West’s Industrial Technology Program.
The scholarship was offered in full and half forms - full paying for all tuition, and half paying for half. What excited JBS human resources director Len Bakken about the program is that the scholarship winners will now work for JBS full-time.
Bakken explained that those with full scholarships are contracted to work for JBS for four years; those with half scholarship are contracted for two years.
Bleess said the program was a great learning experience because whenever something was learned in the classroom, students would get to use what they just learned and apply it hands-on at JBS.
Diaz said he was thankful for the program and the chance to attend college.
“I was thinking about going to school,” Diaz said. “But this scholarship really pushed me into going.”
The graduates were greeted with a pork lunch and cake as well as by leaders from JBS and Minnesota West, including newly appointed Minnesota West president Terry Gaalswyk.
“I can’t take any credit for this program, but I do want to say thank you first of all to JBS for stepping forward and promoting this program and partnership,” Gaalswyk said. “Congratulations to the students. Wear that badge with honor. ... We need more young, talented men to enter this field, and I thank JBS for sponsoring this pursuit.”
Jeff Buysman, the JBS plant engineer, is excited to have the young men on board full-time. He believes they prove the success of the new program.
“This was the first year and we weren’t sure how it was going to work, but you guys have showed a lot of desire,” Buysman said. “You’ve shown that you can be a real asset in a short period of time to a company that is looking for qualities in which you guys brought. It’s a great partnership.”
Bart Collin, the assistant plant engineer, said the program has set the graduates far ahead of the average hire in the maintenance department.
“Generally it’s a two- to three-year learning curve to be proficient at what we do here,” Collin said. “You guys really took the learning curve way down and did a super job. I have nothing but great things to say about you guys, and I’m really happy to have you.”
JBS is currently in the process of awarding scholarships for the next group of students to enter the program.

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