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New Work-Force Program is Part of a Larger Manufacturing Strategy in Louisville

A new partnership between manufacturing officials and educators aims to address a long-standing need for technically skilled workers in Louisville.

The program comes from the Kentucky Federation for Advance Manufacturing Education, or KY FAME. Participating students will attend classes two days per week at their local community college — in Louisville, that’s Jefferson Community and Technical College. At the same time, they will work an additional 24 hours per week for a sponsoring employer, who will subsidize the student’s college expenses.

At the end of the program, students will have an associate degree, about 70 hours of college credit and 1,800 hours of on-the-job training. They can continue working with the sponsoring employer or go on to pursue another degree.

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM), which has an assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky., founded the program in that area. Earlier this month, it was announced that the program would be expanded to a statewide level because of its success in Georgetown.

In Louisville, 12 manufacturers — including GE Appliances, Atlas Machine & Supply Inc., Caldwell Tanks Inc., Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) — are getting involved as sponsor companies. This is one component of a larger, three-part plan to address a skills gap that threatens to undercut growth in the manufacturing industry.

“The 21st century technical employees must process a sophisticated level of skills,” Tony Newberry, president of JCTC, said at a kickoff event today at the school’s downtown campus. For instance, he said, vehicles that are manufactured today contain about 100 tiny computer systems.

GE Appliances CEO Chip Blankenship said a skilled, ready-to-work, productive work force is key for U.S. manufacturing.

He and other manufacturing officials pulled together to help create this program in an effort to move the industry forward, he said. He believes the program will create a pipeline of skilled workers.

Blankenship also noted that officials are in the process of recruiting high school seniors who would participate in the two-year program next year. About 18 to 22 students would participate during the first year.

“The opportunity for full-time employment will be there (from) one of the sponsoring companies,” Blankenship said.

Nationally, manufacturers estimate that 600,000 jobs go unfilled because skilled workers cannot be found, according to a news release from KY FAME. Salaries for these skilled employees can range between $30,000 and $80,000 per year.

** Source: Written By David A. Mann, Louisville Business First

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