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Sunrise Cooperative is a leading agricultural and energy cooperative with 32 locations, 400 full-time employees, and 50 to 150 part-time and seasonal employees throughout the state of Ohio.
Committed to bringing innovative choices and solutions to its customers, Sunrise strives to offer the best products across multiple divisions, including agronomy, grain, energy and feed. Sunrise also prides itself on providing the best team of experts in these fields, which makes education and training important to their success.
“In our company today we are bringing in a lot of people who you wouldn’t necessarily call farm kids,” said George Secor, president/CEO of Sunrise Cooperative. “When individuals join Sunrise, they are going to learn about our company, but my concern was where and how are they going to learn about Ohio agriculture?”
It was this concern that led Secor and Sunrise to focus on employee education opportunities. One of those efforts includes a group membership with Ohio Farm Bureau.
“If you bring in an employee who has never been around agriculture, Ohio Farm Bureau’s Our Ohio magazine, the mailings and the emails break it down in a way that a beginner can understand,” Secor said. “You don’t have to have an agriculture background to understand Ohio agriculture if you start out small and basic.”
Sunrise became a group member of Ohio Farm Bureau in 2009 with employee education in mind.
Secor signed up for the group membership because he wanted Sunrise employees to receive the magazine, emails and mailings to learn about Ohio agriculture. Secor wanted a package program where he could take all 400-plus employees and make them Farm Bureau members.
“I think the Ohio Farm Bureau has done a good job of changing with the times,” Secor said. “They seem to understand that there are a lot of people in agriculture today who are first-time farmers, wanting to have 10 acres of peaches, or wanting to farm the way people used to do it — a couple of cows or hogs on pasture.”
RISE FFA Career Program
More recently, in 2019, Sunrise began participating in the RISE FFA Career Program, a partnership with Ohio FFA. As an extension of the RISE program, in 2021, Sunrise offered full-time positions through its Sunrise University program to nine individuals. The program allows Sunrise to grow its team of employees who learn from the start about Sunrise and its customer-owners. They build their career paths through first-hand experience.
“Students come out of their FFA program in high school and sign on with Sunrise,” Secor said. “We allow them to experience each department in various locations within Sunrise throughout four years, through something we call Sunrise University, an extension of the RISE Program. We then hope they’ll stay on with us, but if not, we’ve just offered them four years of education in agriculture.”
According to Secor, by the end of the second year of Sunrise University, many participants will look for jobs within Sunrise and apply for a specific position, and leave the program early.
Through Ohio Farm Bureau and through its own initiatives, Sunrise invests in educating its employees, which allows the cooperative to provide the best service and solutions for their member-owners, which is key to their continued success.
“Other than one job in this company, which is the CFO, not CEO, there is no required college education,” Secor said. “And while the board supports college education through 50 – $1,000 scholarships to dependents of stockholders and employees, for those not wanting to attend college, we want them to come in right after high school and receive on-the-job training and start their career.”
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