More than 80 educators throughout the state attended the Career and Technical Education Conference from July 17 to July 20, which included a half-day program, hosted by GE Appliances and designed to increase educator awareness of industry needs. The program, which took place on July 19, included a tour, panel discussion and breakout sessions. Participating manufacturers and organizations aimed to confront the manufacturing workforce crisis threatening the regional economy and to strengthen partnerships between education and industry.

The Greater Louisville area is experiencing a resurgence in manufacturing sector jobs after decades of decline. Today, area manufacturing is an $11 billion industry, representing 17 percent of the region’s economic activity and 13 percent of regional employment, according to the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM) and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. However, too few programs prepare students for careers in manufacturing.

The program was inspired by “The Community Playbook for Manufacturing Workforce Development in Greater Louisville,” a plan created by local manufacturers, community organizations and educators, released in April 2016, to tackle the challenge of a growing shortage of qualified manufacturing workers.

“Today, we’re addressing the goal of building the emerging manufacturing workforce by clearly defining and promoting school programs that teach the skills needed for successful careers in manufacturing,” said Laura Morris, panel moderator and Organizational Development & HR Manager at GE Appliances.

Kent Suiters, president of the Greater Louisville Chapter of the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturers (KY FAME), exhorted educators: “My challenge to you is to go and reach out to the manufacturers in your area. Understand their needs and work to develop a partnership with them. This effort can have a huge impact on your students and your community.”

Panelists from local manufacturing companies discussed workforce challenges and described ways they are partnering with the education system to address immediate needs, including programs like KY FAME, co-op initiatives and teacher externships.

“The time is now for educators and manufacturers to partner to ensure that our students are ready for the jobs that are out there,” said Christy Rogers, College & Career Director at Jefferson County Public Schools, who attended the event. “This event encourages educators to become more aware and responsive to the business and industry needs in our state. It is exciting to know that if we get it right, students will benefit by being prepared for high wage, high skilled positions.”

Breakout sessions provided an overview of programs that prepare students for careers in manufacturing. Sessions included KY FAME, Certified Production Technician (CPT), Doss High School Model, TRACK, SkillsUSA and Work Based Learning.

“I’m learning things they don’t teach in school, like how to get up and get to work on time,” said Blake Stowe to a group of educators. Stowe is a former Jeffersonville High School student who is enrolled in the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program (AMT) at the Jefferson Community and Technical College through the Greater Louisville Chapter of KY FAME. Part of KY FAME, AMT is a two-year, earn-while-you-learn program in which college students work part time at local manufacturing companies and spend the other part in the classroom, engaged in curriculum designed by manufacturers. The goal is to prepare students for careers in mid-skilled technical jobs like maintenance which is a critical need for manufacturers. Beginning in August, 24 new students will join the program.

Another important need for the participating manufacturers is entry-level production workers. Certified Production Technician courses and certificates are currently offered at the Kentucky Manufacturing Career Center (KMCC). Technical learning labs focused on manufacturing processes at several of the Greater Louisville high schools, including Doss, Jeffersontown and Bullitt County, are poised to address the need for manufacturing skilled workers.

The partnerships between employers and educators are getting stronger every day and the conference helped educate and raise awareness with a critical audience that impacts the emerging workforce.

About GE Appliances
GE Appliances, a Haier company, makes moments that matter for our owners through our passion for making great appliances and providing unparalleled services. We make with our hands, heads and hearts. We make with integrity, inventiveness and ingenuity. For more than 125 years, we have been creating a legacy of invention – we’ve electrified and modernized life, bringing convenience and fun to kitchens. GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water heaters. For more information on GE Appliances, visit  www.geappliances.com.

About the Kentucky Association for Career and Technical Education
The Kentucky Association for Career and Technical Education (KACTE) is the only professional association for ALL Career and Technical Educators in Kentucky. KACTE members work in all instructional levels of Career and Technical Education (CTE):  middle schools, high schools, secondary career and technology centers, technical and community colleges, and universities, as well as at the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Community and Technical College system offices. All CTE program disciplines are represented in KACTE’s membership:  administration, agriculture, business, communications, construction, engineering and technology, family and consumer sciences, health sciences, information technology, manufacturing, marketing, pathways to careers, and transportation.

© 2016 Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education