To remain globally competitive, advanced manufacturers need a pipeline of workers prepared to fill highly technical positions. Throughout the Lincoln Trail region, employers, educators and workforce and economic development professionals are working together to develop that pipeline.
The Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing (KY FAME), Lincoln Trail Chapter, is one important way our region is addressing the technical skills gap and creating opportunities for both students and manufacturers.
In this cooperative program, students attend classes at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in Springfield or Elizabethtown and work for a manufacturer for 24 hours per week. At the conclusion of the five-semester program, students earn an associate degree in applied science in industrial maintenance technology, advanced manufacturing technician track.
“We’re growing our next generation of employees,” said Nathan Shewmaker, president of the KY FAME Lincoln Trail Chapter. “We have great kids in this region and KY FAME helps them see there is career potential here.”
Working in an advanced manufacturing environment not only provides students a paycheck – which helps them avoid student loans – and on-the-job experience that will help them land a job after graduation, but it also exposes them to challenging, interesting, high-paying careers in modern manufacturing.
As an economic development professional and a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board (LTWDB), I’m excited to see the number of students and employers in the program grow. I’m also proud of the LTWDB’s support of the program, as it helps cover tuition expenses for qualifying students through Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act funds.
KY FAME began locally in the fall of 2015, when its first students began classes at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s main campus. The first class graduates in May and includes Liam Dawson.
“I learn hands-on,” Dawson said. “When I was approached about this program and told I would gain on-the-job experience and trade skills, I knew I should jump on that.”
In addition to his final classes, Dawson works at Metalsa in Elizabethtown, where he hopes he’ll become a maintenance repair technician after graduation.
Dawson’s experience has been positive. If it’s not enough that his brother decided to follow him into the program, his cousin moved to Kentucky from another state to enter KY FAME.
In the fall of 2016, the program extended to ECTC’s Springfield campus, where Kambron Hayden attends classes while working at Barber Cabinet Company.
Hayden said he appreciates gaining an education and the related work experience he’ll need to start a maintenance career. His post-graduation plans include military service and then starting a civilian career. It’s important to him that he finds career opportunities in this area.
“I’ll probably come back and have multiple opportunities,” he said.
KY FAME instructor Mike Hazzard notes the broad scope of the curriculum.
“One of the benefits is that the skills you’re going to learn are diverse, including electrical, engineering, welding, hydraulics and pneumatics, PLCs, robotics and programming,” he said.
Similarly, Shewmaker, who is general manager at automotive supplier Toyoda Gosei Kentucky in Lebanon, said KY FAME students working there rotate through different facets of the business. For example, students taking an electrical class work on building and repairing wire harnesses. Another student, who is in the last phase of the program, is working with engineering to develop a maintenance training program and exploring what is beyond the industrial maintenance associate degree.
“The FAME program is a collaboration,” he said, “and among industries it says: these are students who have completed the curriculum and the on-the-job training, and have gone above and beyond the traditional industrial maintenance degree.”
For students and company sponsors interested in the program, visit elizabethtown.kctcs.edu/Workforce_Solutions/KYFAME, or contact Beth Cassity at 270-706-8700 or email@example.com.
Daniel Carney is the executive director of the Springfield-Washington County Economic Development Authority and a member of the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board.