Partnership to Address Manufacturing Skills Gap in Louisville Area

A new industry-education partnership announced today between the Greater Louisville chapter of the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KYFAME) and Jefferson Community and Technical College will combine classroom and work experiences to create a pipeline of technology-savvy employees for the region’s advanced manufacturing industry. Qualifying students will work and learn, earning valuable on-the-job training and an associate degree with little to no education debt.

Introduced by GE Appliances President and CEO Chip Blankenship at JCTC, the partnership was initiated by a group of area manufacturers who wanted to ensure that area educational institutions, local governments and other groups understood and responded to the urgent need area manufacturers have for trained employees to fill positions in today’s expanding high-tech manufacturing sector.

Together, the Greater Louisville Chapter of KYFAME and JCTC will implement the Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (AMT), a work-study education program founded by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky that now is used by multiple manufacturers who are part of the statewide KYFAME organization announced earlier this month by Gov. Steve Beshear.

“We expect the AMT program to emerge as a part of the solution to bridge the industrial skills gap,” Blankenship said. “It will provide industry with the skilled workforce it needs, provide a way for students to earn an associate degree and offer graduates of the program access to lucrative, rewarding careers or a stepping stone to continue their education and earn a four-year degree.”

The partnership grew from a clarion call by local industry in April 2014 that educators were not meeting the new needs of manufacturers. In a document called “A Blueprint for Bridging the Industrial Skills Gap,” prepared by several industry representatives, area manufacturers declared “the needs of industry have changed. The preparation of workers has not.”

Nationally, manufacturers estimated that 600,000 jobs go unfilled because skilled workers cannot be found for these types of jobs. Salaries for the “mid-skilled” employees often range from $30,000 to $80,000 a year.  At the time, Blankenship said “We at GE are placing big bets on the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing right here in Louisville. A skilled, ready-to-work, productive workforce is key to winning, but we can’t do it alone.”

The blueprint outlined a three-part plan to overcome the challenge, with the AMT program at its core.

Students who participate in the AMT program will work toward an Associate in Applied Science degree in Advanced Manufacturing Technology at JCTC.  They will attend class and participate in lab work for two days a week and will work for a sponsor company at a competitive wage the other three days.

At the end of the 5 semester program, students will emerge with an associate degree, 68 to71 college credit hours, about 1,800 hours of on-the-job training and work experience, little if any education debt, and the opportunity for full-time employment with a sponsor company. Or, if they choose, they can continue their education and pursue a four-year degree.

Students will be expected to master multiple skills, including electricity, robotics, fluid power, mechanics, fabrication, industrial troubleshooting and more.

They will be exposed to the Manufacturing Core Exercises, which prepare students to contribute to a safe and highly efficient, cost effective workplace. These include Safety Culture, Visual Workplace Organization, Lean Manufacturing, Problem Solving and Machine Reliability.  They also will learn the Six Professional Behaviors: Work Attendance, Initiative, Diligence, Interpersonal Relations, Teamwork and Verbal and Written Communication.

The Greater Louisville chapter of KYFAME also will begin to reach out to students as early as middle school to build both interest in and skill sets for manufacturing.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, whose vision for the city includes increasing the number of high growth, high wage manufacturing jobs, said, “Creating a pipeline of highly skilled employees is absolutely essential for our city and region to compete in a global economy.  This focused partnership and the hands-on training will help us meet the goals of our BEAM initiative to maximize our existing strengths and take advanced manufacturing to a much higher level.”

Members of the Greater Louisville Chapter of KYFAME are: Atlas Machine & Supply, Caldwell Tanks, Clariant Corporation, Ford Motor Company, GE Appliances, nth/works, Paradise Tomato Kitchen, Raytheon Co, Shelby Industries LLC, Westport Axle Corp., Yamamoto FB Engineering, and Zoeller Pump Co.

JCTC President Tony Newberry said the KYFAME model bears similarity to a partnership the college enjoys with Toyota Motor Sales in automotive technology, where students gain classroom and actual work experience. JCTC’s program has been recognized as the nation’s leading Toyota training program.

“We believe our experience, highly qualified faculty, and desire to meet the needs of both our employers and students make us a valuable partner,” he said.

While the KY FAME program will launch at the college’s Technical Campus near downtown Louisville, JCTC has included a $46.5 million Advanced Manufacturing/Automotive Technology Center among its capital priorities. Once funded, the Center will be built along South First Street, adjacent to the Downtown Campus on Broadway.

© 2016 Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education