Leadership at nearly every manufacturing facility across the United States is working the same puzzle.
How will we develop the pipeline of skilled workers we need to remain globally competitive?
As more advanced technologies are integrated into the manufacturing process, companies - including those right here in the Lincoln Trail region - are struggling to fill critical, technical positions such as engineers and maintenance technicians.
At the same time, technically minded individuals want what today’s manufacturers offer – challenging, interesting, high-paying careers. But these individuals too often are unaware of the opportunities in the manufacturing sector or they lack the training and education needed to succeed on the job.
With the statewide expansion of the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME), we’re creating opportunities for students and manufacturers alike. KY FAME is a partnership of manufacturers, educators and economic development leaders that offers students an education and training program that will prepare them for a successful career in advanced manufacturing without saddling them with student debt.
Students will attend classes at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in Elizabethtown, earning an associate degree in applied science, and will work for a sponsoring manufacturer for 24 hours per week.
“Students participating in KY FAME are offered a unique opportunity to earn a wage while attending college and gain priceless work experience with a manufacturing leader,” said Dr. Tom Davenport, dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education at ECTC.
“Students enter the job market with less education debt, more real-world experience and an advantage over graduates from other programs in gaining employment. Graduates of the program may continue employment with the sponsoring company, if the company elects to retain the graduate.”
KY FAME began with the Bluegrass chapter in 2010. More than 40 students have completed the program, either landing well-paying jobs with companies like Toyota and 3M or choosing to continue their education. More than 60 students are currently enrolled. In January, Gov. Steve Beshear announced a statewide expansion of the program, starting with new chapters in the Lincoln Trail region, Louisville and Northern Kentucky.
Not only as a human resources professional, but also as a resident of this region, I’m excited about what KY FAME will help us do in terms of building a competitive workforce, securing future career opportunities for today’s students and driving our local economies.
A skilled workforce is the top priority for more and more manufacturers. Attracting bright students to this sector is an issue for employers and entire communities, noted Rick Games, president and COO of the Elizabethtown Hardin County Industrial Foundation and secretary of the Lincoln Trail chapter of KY FAME.
“As parents, as educators, as individuals concerned with enhancing our quality of life, we need to realize there are great careers in manufacturing. FAME can help us do this,” he said.
Addressing the perception of manufacturing careers is an important piece of developing our future workforce. If you were to ask a group of high school students about their post-graduation plans, chances are slim they would mention manufacturing. However, chances are much greater that they would mention engineering, programming or robotics - the very disciplines that are most in demand within manufacturing.
Our schools and business communities already are collaborating through programs such as Project Lead the Way, helping students understand the career opportunities available in manufacturing. For the long-term solution to our skills gap, however, we need to ensure much younger students understand these opportunities.
Currently, the Lincoln Trail chapter of KY FAME is working to involve manufacturers and ensure those companies understand the benefits of the apprenticeship program. Manufacturers already on board include AGC Automotive, Akebono Brake, Altec, Enprotech, Fischbach, Flex Films, INOAC, Metalso, Mid-Park and Mouser Custom Cabinetry.
Interested manufacturers can learn more at www.kyfame.com or by contacting their county’s economic development agency. Interested students can visit www.kyfame.com or contact ECTC Workforce Solutions for more information.
Kurt Krug is president of the Lincoln Trail chapter of KY FAME, member of the KY FAME statewide board of directors and Vice President of North American Human Resources for INOAC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.