This Many Employees Just Got Their High-School Diplomas Through HanesBrands' Continuing Education Program in Central America and the Caribbean

When Felipa Benitez joined HanesBrands' Honduras operations seven years ago, she could not read or write. Today, the 34-year-old mother of two is one of the latest HanesBrands employees to hold a new high school diploma after participating in the company-sponsored continuing education program.

Benitez, a facilities assistant at Hanes' corporate office in Villanueva, Honduras, joined 150 of her colleagues last month to don robes and celebrate all the pomp and circumstance of the country's seventh and latest graduation ceremony. Benitez is now continuing on to college.

"I am grateful for the support I received through the company's education program," said Benitez, who received a college scholarship during the graduation ceremony. "My life has completely changed."

Since its inception in 2009, more than 2,000 HanesBrands employees in Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have earned high school diplomas, more than 10 have earned college degrees, and another 1,500 are currently participating in high school, technical, college and even post-graduate college programs. Many of these employees have secured promotions or moved to higher-level roles within the company.

"Hanes has provided more than 250,000 hours of education to develop the talent of its employees, support families and enrich the communities where we operate in Central America and the Caribbean," said Maria Elena Sikaffy, vice president of human resources, Hanes Central America and the Caribbean. "And the entrepreneurial spirit we recognize in our employees has motivated us to continuing to invest in extending our education programs."

Benitez began her employee educational journey at a first-grade level and studied for seven years to earn her high-school degree.

"From the moment I began the program, I decided to do my best so I could set a good example for my daughter," Benitez said. "I also wanted make everyone who encouraged me – my family and coworkers – feel proud."

The region's employees also have access to technical training designed to enhance their skills in textile manufacturing. Hanes opened the first technical school of its kind in the region within its large El Salvador Textiles fabric plant in 2014. In 2015, similar programs were launched in two of the company's plants in Honduras, and last year, Hanes opened the first bleach-and-dye training center in the Dominican Republic.

Hanes is also supporting employees who have even greater aspirations by developing higher-education programs in partnership with local universities in El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

"Offering life-changing educational opportunities benefits both our employees and our company," said Eduardo Valerio, manager of organizational development, Hanes Central America and the Caribbean, who noted that Hanes offers employee discounts on college tuition and scholarships to outstanding students.

For manager-level employees, the company introduced an International Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in El Salvador, Honduras and the Dominican Republic, which focuses on supply-chain management. It was launched in partnership with the prestigious EUNCET Business School, a center for higher education associated with the Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Spain.

"This ambitious program, which includes classes in operational subjects such as supply chain strategy, organizational vision and leadership development, is a key part of the company's competitive strategy," Valerio said. "Hanes is focused on remaining a highly competitive company in the future, and that requires developing the next generation of leaders today."

The first class of MBA students graduated last July in El Salvador, followed the next month by a graduating class in Honduras. About 80 managers have completed the program, and 40 are currently enrolled.

Hanes has been operating in Central America and the Caribbean for more than 40 years, and currently has 30,000 employees in the region. The company's corporate social responsibility programs have been recognized by the Honduran Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility (FUNDAHRSE), the Salvadoran Rotary Club, and the Mexican Center for Philanthropy (CEMEFI). In 2015, The Great Place to Work Institute named Hanes the third best multinational company to work for in Central America and the Caribbean, the first apparel company to garner such an honor.
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