National report puts spotlight on innovative BCTC earn-and-learn

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) –  Programable logic controllers and robotics may not sound like areas of study most people would think of when it comes to manufacturing.

But for veteran Tim Leshney, employee of Toyota in Georgetown, Ky, they are part of his daily job. Leshney is a graduate of Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) program at the Georgetown-Scott County Campus.

KY FAME is an earn-and-learn program that started in Central Kentucky through a collaboration of BCTC, Toyota and 16 other manufacturers to prepare students for advanced manufacturing careers.

KYFAME defined the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program and the career pathway model that was eventually adopted across Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, and Texas. BCTC is proud to have been on the ground floor of this now national, transformative initiative.

Opportunity America and the Brookings Institution have released a new report on the success of KY FAME, that shows just how well the program is working and shares outcomes for its graduates.

Working with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), Kentucky Center for Statistics, Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education and program graduates, Opportunity America and Brookings reported the following based on data from 2010-11 through 2016-17:

  • KY FAME graduates have a higher completion rate than those not in the program. Roughly 80 percent completed KY FAME. Higher completion rates were seen no matter what race or gender the student was.
  • KY FAME graduates have higher earnings. The one, three and five-year earnings show a significant difference for KY FAME graduates vs. non-FAME graduates. Five years into their careers, FAME graduates are earning nearly $100,000, which is $45,000 more than the non-FAME graduates.
  • 94 percent of graduates said on-the-job training was the most important part of the program.
  • 87 percent said the combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training was most important.

“Manufacturing has been significantly changed by technology. Those seeking careers in manufacturing must train in technology, critical thinking and problem solving,” said Dr. Koffi Akakpo, BCTC president. “Our students are able to build relationships with employers, develop career skills, earn a paycheck and graduate college with little or no debt. It is a great opportunity for a recent high school graduate, or student like Tim who is starting a second career.”

KY FAME students attend class two days a week at a BCTC and apply what they’ve learned three days a week at their job site. They are paid for their work by the sponsoring company, many are hired by the sponsoring company and many employers cover the cost of tuition. Most students graduate with 2,000 hours of work experience for the two-year program.

“On the days that I went to school, I learned the skills that I’d be asked to do on the job,” Leshney said. “Learning the material and skills was easy with hands-on experience. I was often doing on my job what I just learned in class.”

The program is employer led and employers of all sizes are part of the 11 KY FAME chapters. Students must apply with the sponsoring company and there are no age restrictions for the program.

According to the Opportunity America/Brookings report: “The message for employers, educators and policymakers: earn-and-learn training works, and the nation should redouble its efforts to take the model to scale. Among the main reasons it is successful: on-the-job experience gives meaning to classroom instruction and helps students get jobs after graduation.”

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