Effort to narrow technical skills gap in Lincoln Trail region underway

October 15, 2015
GREG HIGDON

GREG HIGDON

Manufacturers in the Lincoln Trail region and across Kentucky offer abundant prospects for those with the right skills and training. Yet for today’s advanced manufacturers, it’s a challenge to find employees with the right technical and life skills.

Encouraging students to train for a career in manufacturing and encouraging employees to further their education is vital to helping the industry remain prosperous and competitive. Employers, educators, economic development professionals and others are coming together to achieve this is in many ways, including the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME).

KY FAME, which began taking shape in the Lincoln Trail region earlier this year, is now helping area students gain the experience and training that can lead to a rewarding, lasting career in manufacturing. The apprenticeship program offers students college credit for hands-on work and less student debt.

At the same time, it creates a pipeline of skilled workers that will help manufacturers remain globally competitive as well as grow their businesses here in Kentucky.

“Unique to KY FAME is the amazing cooperation and employer engagement from local industries, economic development professionals and others,” said Tom Davenport, dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College.

KY FAME began at ECTC’s Elizabethtown campus in August. Students involved in the program are enrolled in 17 credit hours while also working with a local manufacturer, Davenport said. After five semesters, they will have earned an associate degree in applied science and obtained valuable technical experience.

Currently, there are 11 regional manufacturers involved in KY FAME: AGC Automotive, Akebono Brake, Altec, Crest Foam Industries Inc., Enprotech, Fischbach, Flex Films, INOAC, Metalsa, Mid-Park and Mouser Custom Cabinetry.

“These companies offer students an incredible opportunity to learn in-demand skills for an interesting, high-paying career in manufacturing,” said Rick Games, president and COO of the Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation and secretary of the Lincoln Trail chapter of KY FAME. “And employers are able to ensure students are building the skills required for in-demand jobs.”

The program fosters an open dialog with manufacturers and educators, affecting current curriculum offerings to ensure that skills taught in school are what manufacturers require for success.

Plans have been initiated to expand KY FAME at ECTC in the fall of 2016, Davenport said, as ECTC’s Springfield campus also will participate in the program.

The Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM) is committed to addressing the skills gap in advanced manufacturing, and we are proud to be closely involved with KY FAME.

In addition to KY FAME, KAM has been working diligently for several years to break down the silos between students and parents, education, government and the manufacturing industry. We strongly support and encourage Project Lead The Way, a nationally recognized initiative that incorporates more STEM curriculum into K-12 classrooms.

Education - from exposing younger students and parents to the career paths of today’s manufacturing sector to developing training programs that work for our students and employers - will continue to play a critical role in closing the advanced manufacturing skills gap. Programs like KY FAME will not only lead individuals to rewarding career paths, but also develop the workforce that will help our employers succeed and attract new investment in communities across the Commonwealth.

Greg Higdon is president and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers and a member of the statewide KY FAME Board of Directors. He can be reached at (502) 352-2485 or g.higdon@kam.us.com.

The Kentucky Career Center – Lincoln Trail helps match job seekers with local employment and training opportunities. Our business solutions team offers employers of all sizes and industries personalized support to build a competitive workforce. We are an equal opportunity employer.
Program is funded with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I funds through the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet and the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board.
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