Toyota strengthens family ties

As summer comes to an end, so does a Toyota program in Georgetown that offers children of employees a chance to earn some extra cash by joining the manufacturing team.

Begun in 1996, the program boasted 146 participants, high school graduates or older, on site this summer.

They don't work alongside their parents — some even work different shifts — but the participants say it brings a new level of bonding.

”To get a feeling for what he's been doing for the past 20 years, it's given me a better appreciation of that,“ said Mike McNary II, whose father, Mike, works in quality control at the plant.

”We get up in the morning together, drive together. We get a chance to talk more, usually when driving back in the afternoon. I'm a bit tired in the morning,“ said the younger McNary, 19.

It's his second summer at the plant and, at $12 hourly, a better gig than his previous job at Kroger.

He has spent both summers in assembly and now helps install carpets in vehicles on the massive assembly lines at the plant. He said this summer will probably be his last at Toyota, so he can focus on jobs related to his computer science and music majors at Transylvania University.

McNary, a sophomore, said the job has given him the extra spending money that all college students crave.

Of course, as his dad points out, the younger McNary ”always manages to fall asleep“ when the pair pull up to a gas pump on their way to or from work.

Toyota also provides another incentive for the youngsters on staff. Spokesman Rick Hesterberg said the company gives $500 of tuition assistance to the sons and daughters who maintain perfect attendance during their three-month stint.

That's in addition to an annual program at the plant that awards five $1,000 college scholarships to children of employees. Toyota's North American manufacturing operation also awards 50 $1,250 scholarships annually to children of employees, and 13 of those this year went to children of Georgetown workers, Hesterberg said.

The children who work during the summer are also encouraged to become part-timers in the fall if their schedules permit.

”They're familiar with us. They've already been trained. If they still want to maintain some income to help themselves out, it's a win-win situation,“ Hesterberg said.

And in the McNary household, the summer program is going to become a tradition.

The elder McNary, 42, is already planning for his younger son Trevor, a freshman this fall at Lexington's Henry Clay High School, to join him in a few years.

”I'm already working on the application,“ he said, joking.