The days of starting a career after finishing school are over.
Students at the Advanced Manufacturing Center are now able to intertwine their education with real-work experience.
Classes at the new facility began Monday after a groundbreaking in the spring of 2015. The program, which began in 2010 as a partnership between Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky and Bluegrass Community and Technical College, has about 300 students. Approximately 60 of those students are working at Toyota while taking classes.
It takes most students about two-and-a-half years to complete the program in which they earn an associate in applied science degree in industrial maintenance technology. And it allows them to earn money along the way by working for a local manufacturer. Classes include industrial maintenance, electronics, programmable logic controllers, industrial electricity, robotics, mechanical drives, fluid power, machining and welding.
Students are selected by a manufacturing company before they begin their course work.
The new facility housing the program cost $24 million, is a 78,000 square-foot space and has a capacity for 1,200 students, according to a press release. The design of the building looks like a manufacturing facility.
On Wednesday, Dalton Mears, a second-year student in the program, was programming a red, bulky robot to pick up and move objects across a table. Mears was programming the robot by moving his arm.
Mears currently works in maintenance at Toyota three days a week and continues his education for the other two days.
“It’s gone really well,” he said. “I really like that I can just come over here.”
Mears got interested in engineering in high school and participated in VEX Robotics, a robotics program which includes game-based competitions based around the machines.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the manufacturing sector is projected to decrease slightly from about 12,188,000 jobs in 2014 to 11,374,000 jobs in 2024. However, the goods-producing sector overall is expected to grow from about 19,170,500 jobs in 2014 to about 19,227,000 jobs in 2024.
In addition to Toyota, some other manufacturers participating in the center include 3M Company, Commonwealth Machine Tool, Hobart, Link Belt Construction Equipment Co., and Tarter Farm and Ranch.
Mark Manuel, vice president of advanced and organization development of BCTC, said the program’s goal is to help the state’s workforce be prepared.
“Workforce issues are big in the country right now and they’re huge in Kentucky,” he said. “You’ll hear the business community, the chambers (of commerce) talk a lot about not being able to find workers. We’re part of the solution for that.”