VERSAILLES, Ky. – Programmable logic controllers and robotics may not sound like areas of study most people would think of when it comes to manufacturing. But for Brad Copeland, a 35-year-old employee of Vanderbilt Chemicals in Murray, they are part of his daily job. Copeland is a recent graduate of West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s (WKCTC) Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) program.
KY FAME is an earn-and-learn program in which the colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) work with local companies to prepare students for advanced manufacturing careers.
Opportunity America and the Brookings Institution have released a new report on the success of KY FAME, that shows just how well the program is working and shares outcomes for its graduates.
Working with KCTCS, Kentucky Center for Statistics, Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education and program graduates, Opportunity America and Brookings reported the following based on data from 2010-11 through 2016-17:
- KY FAME graduates have a higher completion rate than those not in the program. Roughly 80 percent completed KY FAME. Higher completion rates were seen no matter what race or gender the student was.
- KY FAME graduates have higher earnings. The one, three and five-year earnings show a significant difference for KY FAME graduates vs. non-FAME graduates. Five years into their careers, FAME graduates are earning nearly $100,000, which is $45,000 more than the non-FAME graduates.
- 94 percent of graduates said on-the-job training was the most important part of the program.
- 87 percent said the combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training was most important.
“Today’s manufacturing careers require skills in technology, critical thinking, problem solving and communication,” said KCTCS Chancellor Kris Williams. “Those skills are incorporated into the classroom portion of the FAME program along with the hands-on learning students receive. This is an excellent earn-and-learn program that pays while one learns.”
KY FAME students attend class two days a week at a KCTCS college and apply what they’ve learned three days a week at their job site. They are paid for their work by the sponsoring company, most are hired by the sponsoring company and many employers cover the cost of tuition. Most students graduate with 2,000 hours of work experience for the two-year program.
“On the days that I went to school, I learned the foundation and then I’d apply it on the job. So, it went hand-in-hand,” Copeland said. “I could actually catch on faster because I learned it, and then as quickly as sometimes the next day, I was using what I learned.”
The program is employer led and employers of all sizes are part of the 11 KY FAME chapters. Students must apply with the sponsoring company and be at least 18 years old. There is no age limit for applicants.
According to the Opportunity America/Brookings report: “The message for employers, educators and policymakers: earn-and-learn training works, and the nation should redouble its efforts to take the model to scale. Among the main reasons it is successful: on-the-job experience gives meaning to classroom instruction and helps students get jobs after graduation.”
KCTCS colleges are in need of additional manufacturing partners. For information on how to be part of KY FAME, contact the closest KCTCS college or the local KY FAME chapter.