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Find FAME and Fortune in Pueblo, CO

A new manufacturing training program helps stock region's talent pool.

By Teree Caruthers on June 15, 2022

Pueblo Community College and FAME are preparing students for successful futures.
Steve Bigley/Pueblo Community College

While a strong workforce development strategy often includes training and retaining an area’s talent pool, Pueblo, CO, is taking things one step further with FAME. This new apprenticeship program introduces students to local manufacturing career paths and trains them to fill vacancies in the workforce.

FAME (Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education) was created by Toyota in 2008 as a way to increase the number of skilled workers for its manufacturing facilities. The program has since grown to include more than 400 employers nationwide, and in 2021, local Pueblo employers Trane, GPS Source, Krage Manufacturing, Pewag, Steel City Solar, TR Toppers and Vestas launched a Pueblo chapter.

The group partnered with Pueblo Economic Development Corp.; Made in Pueblo, a consortium of Pueblo manufacturing employers; local public schools; and Pueblo Community College (PCC) to provide training opportunities for local students.

“We are in a severe crisis of highly skilled people,” says Ted Harvey, plant manager for Trane in Pueblo. “A lot of people are retiring, and that’s a big void to fill. That’s a lot of technology expertise. (With FAME), we have an opportunity for highly skilled people to go through the training program and help out Pueblo and the region, which is going to be huge.”

“This is really a great fit because instead of working somewhere in an unrelated area, students are working in a field where they want to go to work for a career, and that’s very valuable.”

Jennifer Sherman | Pueblo Community College

PCC students selected for the program have a paid internship three days a week with a FAME company and attend classes at PCC the other two days.

Jennifer Sherman, dean of business and advanced technology at PCC, says FAME is a perfect partnership for the college because it has historically been unable to graduate enough students in the industrial maintenance program to meet local workforce demand.

“It is a very high-demand field, and it’s a high-paying field, but we can’t get enough students in the program or graduated to meet our local and regional demand,” Sherman says. “With (FAME), students are able to interview with a local employer and, if hired, will go to work at that company three days a week and go to class two days a week.”

Pueblo Community College and FAME are preparing students for successful futures.
Steve Bigley/Pueblo Community College

On-the-Job Training in Pueblo

Since FAME internships are paid, it has helped PCC recruit more students to the program straight from high school – students such as freshman Joel Hernandez.

“I was thinking about going into robotics and mechatronics at CSUP (Colorado State University Pueblo), but the FAME program promised a lot of hands-on work, along with a paid internship, which is pretty rare,” Hernandez says. “Not only does it look good on my resume, but I’ll also have the skills to back it up. Even if they don’t look at my resume, I’m going to have that experience and be able to showcase my skills to employers.”

Sherman says when students graduate, they will have earned more than 1,000 training hours, which will give them a head start to a successful career. The program also gives students an opportunity to apply what they learn in class to real-world scenarios.

“A lot of times when students are going to school in programs like this, they don’t always understand the relevance of what they’re learning. They don’t understand the application. With this program, they may learn something in class on Tuesday, and then they’re going to go to work Wednesday and be able to apply what they’ve learned on the plant floor,” Sherman says.

She also notes that FAME employers take time to mentor their interns.

“It’s a two-year college program, and students work with the employer for two years,” she says. “At the end of the program, students can stay on and be offered a full-time job if the company chooses. The national model shows that quite a high percentage of students who participate stay on with their employer because by the end of the program, they’ve found a good fit and are ready to come on board and earn a decent wage and become a full-time employee.”

Did you Know?

Pueblo Community College students can earn a bachelor’s degree without transferring to a four-year institution. “Our students come to us because they don’t want to leave Pueblo,” says Patty Erjavec, president of PCC. “The Bachelor of Applied Science (program) allows students to receive their associate degree to get a good job and then continue on the four-year degree completion. Our program is designed for working adults, which gives them the flexibility to get that bachelor’s degree that will then ultimately help them advance in their career.” Click here for more information.

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