Employer Engagement: The AMT Program Involves Employers from Beginning to End
Carol Crawford, Northwood University
Employer involvement in all phases of the process is one of the hallmarks of a career pathway according to the Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative’s (AMTEC) National Case Study Executive Summary: Programs That Work. The Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) embraces this concept in its industry-led Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program. KY FAME is a collaborative of 125 manufacturers and their college partners across the state that have implemented the AMT career pathway model to address the global shortage of competently skilled technicians. The FAME and AMT program model continues to grow in the state and has been adopted by several other states.
The AMT program was initiated in 2010 by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) and Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) to address the large retirement bubble that was about to occur. TMMK needed technicians who not only had the technical skills but also understood the manufacturing culture and exhibited professional behaviors. Because of that need, the industry-led AMT program incorporates professional behaviors (for example, attendance, communication, and team building) and manufacturing culture (safety culture, workplace organization, lean manufacturing, problem solving, and maintenance reliability) into the technical training.
Benefits of Employer Engagement
Employer engagement requires finding ways for industry representatives and college educators and administrators to collaborate. The process is not easy, but the benefits make the effort worthwhile. Employer involvement creates a strong relationship between faculty members and manufacturers and gives them an opportunity to continuously improve the program based on changes in manufacturing. Students gain a more well-rounded knowledge of their chosen fields, gain confidence, and create networks for the future. Employer engagement allows manufacturers to influence the building of a globally competent workforce. The college benefits by becoming the “go to” organization when manufacturers need a pipeline of employees.
Employers are engaged from the beginning in these areas:
Recruitment—Manufacturers lead the recruiting activities by contacting the high schools, making presentations, attending high school career fairs, speaking with students one-on-one, hosting manufacturing tours, and more.
Selection—Manufacturers review the qualified applications and select the interviewees. Prospective students submit their top-three choices of manufacturers for sponsorship before being interviewed by a panel of manufacturers. At the end of the interviews, manufacturers, with the students’ choices in mind, start the selections in a “draft” type activity.
Orientation—Manufacturers lead many activities at the two-day orientation that introduces program expectations.
Manufacturing Culture and Professional Behaviors—Successful students understand the manufacturing culture. Each semester students, working in teams, prepare a project to present to their sponsors at the end of the semester. The manufacturers, in turn, give feedback, complete an evaluation, and give recommendations. This process includes several professional behaviors, such as presentation and communication skills and team building.
Graduation—Graduation is celebrated not only by students and parents but by the manufacturers.
Other Activities—Employers participate in activities such as high school and community tours of the classroom, safety ceremonies, and open houses at their manufacturing facilities.
AMT graduates have the opportunity to continue their career pathways by enrolling in either Advanced Manufacturing Business (AMB) or Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (AME). Northwood University continues the KY FAME industry-led employer engagement pathway by offering the AMB program. Many instructors are currently employed in the manufacturing industry, bringing their experience to the classroom. Two other activities are the Leadership Professional Inspiration Series (LPIS) and manufacturing tours that students must complete. In the LPIS, employer leaders present their career journeys to students and serve as mentors. KY FAME partners have opened their facilities for manufacturing tours, thereby giving students a broader view of the manufacturing industry.