Alabama manufacturing students could see changes to FAME apprenticeship program

DECATUR, Ala - What's next for the FAME apprenticeship programs in Alabama? During Presidential Advisor Ivanka Trump's visit Tuesday the program's creator, Toyota Motor North America announced that the Manufacturing Institute will be taking over the program.

Officials at Calhoun Community College say the program will be changing, but they expect enrollment to increase as demand for skilled workers continues to rise in the state.

Training for manufacturing students has changed a lot over the years.

"Maintenance positions in the past were more focused on repairing mechanical equipment and there wasn't as much of the robotics type equipment or the electronic type equipment," said Terry Patterson, Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative Programs Coordinator, Calhoun Community College.

Patterson says that doesn't mean there is a lower demand for workers.

The FAME program has been here in Decatur since 2014. But it saw a major growth spurt for the 2019-2020 school year. It went from 20 students to 60. Patterson expects another 60 to be enrolled in the FAME program next year, totaling 120 enrolled students.

"We've announced in our region over the past well since Mazda Toyota was announced basically 10,000 jobs in our area and more are coming even here in Decatur we'll have some significant announcements in the coming weeks," Decatur Mary Tab Bowling said.

According to the Alabama Secretary of Commerce, there is a need for 500,000 Alabamians to increase their manufacturing skills.

"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," said Greg Canfield.

The FAME program, created by Toyota, is going to be taken over by the Manufacturing Institute.

"For the students who are currently enrolled, they will see very little change in the training that they receive we will still follow the fame program that was developed by Toyota," said Patterson.

But the curriculum could be altered in the future.

"There's an effort to 'de-Toyota-tize' the program," said Patterson.

He says the program could be more generic to prepare students for work at a wide variety of industries.

FAME currently has 31 chapters in 13 states. The Manufacturing  Institute plans to expand the program to 20 states in the next two years.

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