Cutting-edge employee-educator programs make better workers and better people
A new adage is beginning to make the rounds, and a lot of people in the Greater Louisville area, especially employers, educators, state officials an students, are hoping it rings true: “There aren’t manufacturing jobs, there are only manufacturing careers.”
The thinking behind this highly quotable saying reflects the thinking that as Louisville manufacturers look to populate the ranks in the high-tech facilities they operate today,from maintenance mechanics to electrical engineers, they are willing to put forth a sizable investment into workforce development – illustrating to potential employees that these jobs are destinations, and not part of a journey.
KentuckianaWorks is the Workforce Development Board for the Greater Louisville region, which consists of Jefferson and six other counties in Kentucky, as well as six counties in Southern Indiana. The initiative produces a number of education- and workforce-related programs, including the Kentucky Manufacturing Career Center. More than 60 manufacturing employers partner with the center to advise the programming and training to better prepare adult candidates for entry-level jobs, and above, at their companies.
This program year, more than 300 people have been placed in jobs by the career center’s career specialists. The average wage at placement for these candidates is $12.60 an hour; the average wage at placement for a graduate of the Certified Production Technician course, a track of the Kentucky Manufacturing Career Center, is $13.66 an hour.
Along with manufacturing, KentuckianaWorks puts a heavy emphasis on jobs in the information technology sector. By 2020, there will be one million more computer programming jobs in the U.S. than workers to fill them – and 10,400 of those jobs will be in the Greater Louisville region. To meet this need, KentuckianaWorks developed Code Louisville, a free 12-week training program that is building a local computer software coding talent pool for the area.
The program trains people 18 and older with cutting-edge IT skills, including front- and back-end web and mobile development, and no degree is necessary. On the whole, Louisville Forward, the economic development arm of the city’s metro government, and KentuckianaWorks have embraced a holistic approach to workforce development with the Cradle to Career initiative. The far-reaching program leverages a number of workforce development and educational organizations – such as 55,000 Degrees, which has the goal of adding 40,000 bachelor’s degrees and 15,000 associate degrees to the local community – to bolster the idea that whether you are a baby in a crib or an adult getting a new certification, you must constantly be learning if you are to succeed.
Cradle to Career has four pillars: early childhood, K-12 and postsecondary education, and “21st Century Workforce and Talent.” For 21st Century Workforce and Talent, business leaders from a range of growing employment sectors have come together to align regional education and training programs to high paying jobs that are in demand. Four business- led work groups have been working to develop metrics and recommendations for improving labor market intelligence, improving the capacity to connect qualifie job seekers to the best jobs, increasing the pipeline of skilled employees with market- friendly majors to regional employers, and creating a culture that supports career pathways from high school to postsecondary education to the workplace.
Concerning the last two efforts in particular, a new statewide workforce development initiative has similar goals.
Beginning this fall, Louisville manufacturers, along with those those in other regions of the state, will help launch a new program to address the disconnect between the availability of high-paying, career-oriented manufacturing jobs and the lack of skilled workers to fill them.
Called the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, the KY FAME program is an innovative blend of industry and education, with a primary focus of meeting manufacturers’ needs by giving students 21st- century workplace skills. Participating manufacturers sponsor graduating high school students based on a number of criteria, including ACT scores and an aptitude for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, and, through a partnership with a local Kentucky Community and Technical College System school, immerse them in an intense work-study regimen.
The students essentially become employees of the sponsoring manufacturer, with an hourly wage and, in some instances, full-time benefits. They spend three days a week in the employer’s facility and two days in the classroom, where they can share and discuss their experiences with the instructor in a much deeper way than with traditional models, according to Dianne Leveridge, the KCTCS director of technical programs and KY FAME board member.
“It’s more than an apprenticeship. Standard apprenticeship models are based on time – thousands and thousands of hours of time,” Leveridge said. “This model is five straigh semesters, so it’s based on deep, comprehensive skills development in a shorter period of time.”
The KY FAME model is based on the successful Advanced Manufacturing Training program Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in Georgetown pioneered in a partnership with Bluegrass Community and Technical College back in 2010. Since the program has been implemented, a number of other businesses in the Bluegrass region have joined the Advanced Manufacturing Training program. With KY FAME, this education-training program will be implemented across Kentucky within different chapters comprised of several regional manufacturers and colleges within KCTCS.
The curriculum isn’t exclusively technically based, Leveridge said, but it was developed in a way to enhance participants’ “lean thinking,” which in turns echoes efficient-manufacturing concepts.
“What this program does is bring together the critical skills that many applicants, many people – even those currently employed – lack around critical thinking, problem solving, working in teams, communications and interpersonal skills. There are critical components embedded across the curriculum coupled with very specific technical skills.”
When the program begins this fall, there will be four chapters within KY FAME: Bluegrass, Northern Kentucky, Lincoln Trail and Greater Louisville. By the end of the year, Leveridge says there could be eight to 10 chapters, representing as many as 100 companies inside Kentucky.
Each chapter is fairly autonomous when crafting the program to meet the manufacturers’ immediate needs.
Lesson one: Today’s manufacturing is different
“Kentucky cannot fully participate in the manufacturing renaissance unless and until we solve the manufacturing skills gap,” said Tom Hudson, president of nth/works in Louisville, and president of the Greater Louisville chapter. “By aligning together and clearly defining our needs, we can solve this problem by working with secondary and postsecondary schools and government to create a system that attracts, develops and retains skilled manufacturing talent.”
Perception is one of the biggest obstacles manufacturers have to overcome when trying to attract talented students. Leveridge said some chapters held open houses at participating manufacturing facilities to help stave off factory stereotypes.
“After the open house, parents of students were calling employers saying, ‘Put my student in this program’ – which is part of the trouble that manufacturing traditionally has to overcome, the perception that it’s dark, dirty and dangerous,” she said. “And when they walked through the facility, they saw a typical advanced manufacturing facility which you see today all over Kentucky – very clean, very bright, automated, exciting, high tech, an interesting place for their students to start a career. Therein lies part of the nature of the conversation you have to change.”
Ford partnering with high schools
Last year, Ford Motor Company and UAW Ford created a new educational pilot program aimed at building real- world partnerships between teachers, students and manufacturers. The Ford NGL Collaborative Learning Externship is a part of the national Ford Next Generation Learning program. Within high schools it sets up small academies, geared toward a variety of disciplines, to help students make better connections between classroom learning and actual workplace experience.
The program brings teams of teachers into the Louisville Assembly plant to learn the intricate workings of the facility, which the instructors can then impart on their students.
Ford also created a “Powered by Ford” Build and Design academy pilot program at nearby Jeffersontown High School. As part of the program, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Ford Motor Company will provide the academies with scholarships for students, equipment, mentors for student projects and professional development for teachers among other needed support.
The Collaborative Learning Externship and “Powered by Ford” academy also will focus on not only vocational skills, but other necessary abilities.
“Often times we get employees that are academically prepared, but they have never really developed their team work skills or their critical thinking and problem solving skills,” said Cheryl Carrier, director of the Ford Next Generation learning program. “These are what we call 21st-century skills, skills we all need to be successful in life – not just in the workplace, but in life. It’s a very well-rounded approach to high school.”
A tool for economic developers
These public-private-education- industry relationships are becoming more and more commonplace throughout the country. As other states grapple with their own shortage of high-tech, Kentucky’s approach to workforce development and economic development has been much more comprehensive, according to Joshua Benton, the executive director for workforce development within the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
“The approach we take is a little bit different, we are trying to really change the way we do business,” he said. “Fortunately Kentucky has been ahead of the curve on that, in better aligning our systems and resources.”
In terms of attracting students, these programs are especially enticing to those with an inclination toward STEM careers, but they also have a flip side, Benton said. The programs also are enticing to officials t ying to secure more business within the state.
“These resources are definitely a part of the conversation when we are talking to the companies that are looking at Kentucky or looking to expand within the commonwealth,” he said.