College initiative addresses need for more workers
Today’s manufacturing industry isn’t like it was in the past, which brings to mind images of dirty factories and back-breaking work. High-paying careers that require advanced skills dominate the manufacturing landscape today.
Officials at Bluegrass Community & Technical College-Danville Campus hope to enlighten high school students and their parents about that fact and have introduced a program to prepare people for these skilled positions. BCTC-Danville’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician program enables students to graduate with a two-year AMT associate’s degree and expect starting salaries around $45,000 a year — a figure that will continue to escalate based on talent and experience.
“This program was put together very quickly to address the need for more manufacturing employees in Boyle County, and our first AMT program began in August 2015 with nine students,” says Erin Tipton, director of the Bluegrass Community & Technical College-Danville campus. “It will grow in popularity once the word really gets out, with the next program set to start in August 2016.”
The Advanced Manufacturing Technician initiative is a partnership between BCTC and several area manufacturers that need skilled employees to fill upcoming vacancies that will occur with the retirement of baby boomers.
“A nice aspect of the program is that students spend two days a week in the classroom and three days working for their sponsor manufacturing company,” Tipton says. “That means much of the tuition for these college students is absorbed by the companies, so that students will have zero debt upon completion.”
Tipton says a two-year AMT degree provides a career pathway to work as an advanced manufacturing technician or an industrial maintenance technician. Beyond that, students could go on to complete more schooling for an engineering degree.
“Today’s manufacturers are looking for individuals who can troubleshoot in areas such as automation, robotics and computer programming,” she says. “Students who earn an AMT associate’s degree will be extremely marketable.”
Toyota Did It, and We Will, Too
Area companies partnering with BCTC-Danville in the AMT program include Hitachi, Hobart, Intelligrated, Tarter Farm & Ranch and TransMav. Denyo Manufacturing Corporation in Danville is also involved, and Denyo’s administrative manager Steve Rinehart is even on the board of directors for the Bluegrass Community & Technical College Foundation.
“The AMT program actually began six years ago in Georgetown, Ky., when Toyota realized it would soon need a new crop of employees, and now the placement rate at Toyota for graduating students is higher than 90 percent,” Rinehart says. “Toyota realized that it better grow its own talent pool, and we offer the same academic programs at the BCTC-Danville Campus.”
Rinehart reiterates that the biggest challenge is getting people to realize that modern manufacturing is not dangerous, dark and dirty, as in the past.
“Erin and I are getting into schools to talk with students via videos as well as getting them into manufacturing settings, plus we are speaking with teachers and counselors to address the image issue,” he says. “Positive inroads are being made.”