DECATUR, Ala. – Toyota announced an apprenticeship program geared towards manufacturing aspects of the company.
The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers, and Toyota Motor North Alabama announced a partnership to transition operations and stewardship of the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education Program (FAME) to the manufacturing institute.
FAME is an employer collaborative that consists of a two-year industrial degree known as the Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program. The AMT program trains students regardless of age or background, from high school graduates to those interested in transitioning into manufacturing to those wanting to advance their careers.
The program focuses on technical qualifications in advanced manufacturing. The goal is to help students develop professional skills and deeper knowledge of the manufacturing industry.
"Everything that you learn you are putting to work on the plant floor and if there is something that you don't quite understand in school you're able to ask your mentors that are assigned to you to explain those concepts to you. Its a win-win for you and plus you get paid to do it," said Lexandra Lutz, FAME student.
Lutz says she also doesn't have any student debt from the program.
FAME has 31 chapters in 13 states. Four of those chapters are in Alabama, the largest of those is located in Decatur.
"FAME has set the standard for industry-driven apprenticeships, and by taking it nationwide we will open the door to high paying manufacturing jobs for Americans across the country," said CEO Jay Timmons.
Ivanka Trump came to Decatur on Tuesday for the announcement.
"One of the elements that makes this program and so many of the other programs that I've toured that are successful as successful as they are is that there is a learn while you earn component," said Ivanka Trump, presidential advisor.
On Monday Trump posted to her Twitter account about what she called the Alabama success story, citing low unemployment rates and higher wages, adding quote “we’re just getting started.”
During her visit, she spoke with some manufacturing students about their journeys.
"She was just basically telling us when we weren't on stage to just persevere," said Lexandra Lutz. "The jobs are out there, you just have to go get them basically."
Ivanka Trump says low unemployment rates are proving that every day. "We have seen, and we're seeing it right here in Alabama, record low unemployment rates. Alabama has just reached a new low of 3.3 percent. We're seeing inclusive growth."
The first daughter and job creation advisor says those who had previously been on the sidelines of the economy are now entering the workforce and honing in on skills they need to secure a career.
One student says a lot of her classmates are younger than her but they were exposed to the field early on.
"A lot of these kids that are in this program right now, they've been learning about mechatronics and robotics in high school," said Allison Doyal. "And I'm so jealous, when I was in high school they didn't do anything like that."
Manufacturing officials say they plan to scale up operations and hopefully get students excited at younger ages.
Ivanka went on to say she was extremely impressed with how the students conducted themselves. She said she's visited programs in more than half of the states but the students in Alabama, their knowledge and seriousness regarding their craft, was outstanding.
Need to bolster manufacturing workforce
According to the Manufacturing Institute, there are currently more than half a million skilled factory jobs that could be filled at this moment. There are 2.4 million jobs that could go unfulfilled in the next 10 years.
As the manufacturing industry changes and more companies move in, Alabama lawmakers and business leaders we need more skilled workers. State Secretary of Commerce, Greg Canfield says Governor Ivey focusing on a huge workforce need.
"Half a million people that are Alabamians that may currently be employed in the workforce or maybe underemployed, or not employed at all, but they need to be skilled up because of the growing demand for higher-level skills as we see more automation, artificial intelligence coming into the scene," Canfield said.