FAME Partnerships Meet Manufacturing Workforce Needs

February 16, 2018 | Safal Partners

Key Takeaway: Workforce development occurs when industry takes the wheel in technical education.

When it comes to developing manufacturing talent, a national program is driving innovation in career and technical education and accelerating partnerships that address real-world needs. The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) started in Kentucky in 2009. FAME then helped local people prepare for jobs that matched Toyota’s need for skilled technicians, and helped Toyota build a workforce with globally-competitive talent. The program’s principles, however, also apply to non-automotive manufacturers and other employers with technical workers, diversifying possible partners. Since 2009, FAME has expanded to serve nine states, multiple career pathway options, and more than 300 companies.

Dennis Dio Parker, a workforce development pioneer, has led FAME since it began with the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program. In a recent interview with Safal, Parker explained that FAME’s biggest contribution has been establishing partnerships between employers and education programs. Toyota’s immense size could have intimidated smaller partners. But the auto-maker overcame this by emphasizing all the partners’ common goals and shared outcomes.

With FAME, Toyota partnered with local community and technical colleges to teach practical skills relevant to jobs in Toyota’s manufacturing plants. Students in FAME programs spend two days in the classroom and three days at the plant. They can practice their skills in an authentic work setting and earn a paycheck at the same time. They typically leave the program debt-free, and nearly all graduates are offered full-time employment. Today, AMT graduates can continue their education with two extension opportunities: the Advanced Manufacturing Business Program (AMB) and the soon-to-be launched Advanced Manufacturing Engineer Program (AME). These options serve the needs of both students seeking careers and lifelong learning and employers needing a globally competitive workforce. You can learn more about FAME at its national website.

Through Safal’s recent work with partnership development in the manufacturing sector, we learned about many ways that employers interact with educators. Not only do employer-led initiatives produce better skilled candidates, they create a networked approach to education and industry issues. With employers directing and engaging with secondary and postsecondary technical education, the curriculum is more tightly aligned to the skills associated with in-demand jobs. Employers that build relationships with students and school leaders, and produce results, draw new partners to the network. Parker recommends the following steps to replicate FAME’s success:

Recruit Industry Partners
Often, partners will join only after seeing positive results. Try starting with a smaller group of committed partners. Be sure to showcase your progress and encourage company employees (at all levels of the business) to meet with graduates of the technical education program. Further, a built-in partnership of multiple employers makes for powerful support when seeking funds through federal, state, and other grants. In the FAME network, these partnerships have already resulted in millions of dollars of grant money for partner schools.

Attract Education Partners
Depending on the size of the employer, education entities may not choose, or be able to afford, to invest in new curriculum. Employers can step up by covering all or some of the costs of retraining teachers or developing curriculum. Consider supporting curriculum development efforts with company technical knowledge and expertise. The company can also loan or volunteer technical instructors. Educators sometimes need to see a long-term commitment before they agree to partner with employers.

Build Interest
Take initiative to reach out to local schools. It is never too early to begin targeting younger students. Beyond students, engage with school leaders, teachers, and parents. Explain how their students can benefit from choosing a career in manufacturing or other industries.

Continuously Improve or Sustain a Program – FAME’s model took a page out of Toyota’s culture of continuous improvement. The model has a built-in emphasis on constantly improving processes. Rather than short-term problem solving, the program constantly finds ways to make things better, year after year.

For more information on how to advance your own manufacturing partnership, Safal is supporting the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), Division of Career, Academic, and Technical Education, in coordinating a series of four peer-to-peer conversations called ‘Strengthening Partnerships for the Manufacturing Workforce.’ This series of online conversations will feature leaders from around the country who have worked to develop their own partnerships. Join us at 12:15 p.m. ET on the following dates to talk about:

Vertical Integration in Your Manufacturing Partnership

Telling Your Partnership’s Story

Managing Your Partnership Tensions

Keeping Your Partners Engaged

Reserve your spot today!