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WCHS Students attended Kentucky Fame Conference in Louisville after local educators completed externships

Educators gear up for manufacturing jobs

Wayne County High School was recognized for winning a first place video through the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) program during the KAM Workforce Readiness Conference, October 26th at the Galt House in Louisville.

Students from Wayne County High School and Taylor County Schools Cardinal Academy (Middle School) were the two winners for the #KYisMFG Student Video Contest. The students and their teachers were awarded $500 for their school. In addition, Wayne County Seniors Bailey Wright and Tanner Thompson, who starred in the local video will each be receiving a Surface Pro, the latest Microsoft tablet on the market, as special thanks.

Brittany Garrett, representing the MakerMinded state program said, the judges loved your video and included comments such as “Overall delivers an effective message about why manufacturing in KY is awesome” and “news format is somewhat different”.   

The KY FAME program is a partnership of regional manufacturers whose purpose is to implement career pathways, apprenticeship-style educational programs that will create a pipeline of highly skilled workers. MakerMinded is preparing students to fill the demand in the advanced manufacturing industry.

Wayne County High School has embraced this program since it is helpful to students’ future employment. A handful of past Wayne County graduates have been employed through this beneficial program. However, it was not until this summer that the program really took off locally, after several staff members participated in a Teacher Externship Program. WCHS teachers Jared Criswell, Brenda Hoover, Robin Smith, Angela Morrow, Jamie Foster, Tim Withers and Amie McWhorter went the extra mile by participating in an enlightening week observing the manufacturing process so their instruction can better meet students’ needs towards future employment. Since then, the teachers have become advocates for the program and have promoted manufacturing skills through contests, guest speakers, and classroom experiences.

“We’re very proud of the work our teachers did this summer. It shows their desire and commitment to our students,” said Wayne County High School Principal Justin Alley.

“We are trying to work more closely with our local manufacturers to produce competitive candidates. Our goal is for every Wayne County High School student to be a well-prepared, competitive candidate that has experience with soft skills and specialized work skills,” said Alley.

American Woodmark is one of the local companies involved in the Cumberlands Chapter of Kentucky Fame. The chapter was voted the best based on the externship program that the Wayne County High School teachers participated in last summer.

“Wayne County had the most participants in the program and really excelled,” noted Alley.

Some of the other companies involved in the program are: TTAI, UGN, and the Cooper Power Plant. Local teachers participated at American Woodmark, TTAI, and the Cooper Power Plant, specifically.

Alley was very appreciative to American Woodmark, TTAI and the entire Cumberlands Chapter of KY FAME for the opportunity to work alongside them to better prepare our students. Alley added, “KY FAME is an incredible opportunity for graduating seniors to get a free college education while receiving on-the-job-training.”

Freshman Academy Teacher Brenda Hoover and Art Teacher Tim Withers accompanied the students to the recent KAM conference. Hoover’s externship was at the local American Woodmark cabinet manufacturing plant, while Withers went to TTAI in Pulaski County. They both learned valuable information that they can now pass on to their students.

The first few days of the externships, the teachers learned the specific manufacturing processes and what manufacturers need from the community. Most of the teachers were unaware of the KY FAME program prior to their externships. As the teachers made observations, they realized the type of skills their students needed to work at the plants.

Withers videoed employees on the floor, maintenance workers, middle management, office workers, engineers and the vice-president at work during this weeklong experience. “We went to mid-day meetings where they talked about productivity. The Japanese workers met with the American staff and it was all very serious.”

Withers said the work environment was very clean and well lighted. There was a koi pond with a bridge that led to the entrance of the plant. He described the Japanese art displayed on shelves in the lobby. “It was very impressive,” he said.

“A lot of the engineers are Japanese. They work with interpreters to communicate with the employees on the line,” said Withers. He noticed that some of the equipment is labeled in Japanese and they used a Japanese word for their work orders.

He was pleased to learn that creative thinking skills are valued there, since that is his focus in teaching arts and humanities. Being able to think on your feet is encouraged. They are open to ideas that make the manufacturing of their products faster or easier so things move more efficiently. For instance, a worker may be able to stack a part in a box a different way than recommended, initially.

Withers was intrigued by the learning opportunity into a completely different environment outside the walls of the high school. “It was fascinating,” he said. “It was a good week.”

“KY FAME Externship was an awesome experience,” agreed WCHS Teacher Angela Morrow, who also traveled to TTAI.  “We have said for years that college is the only option, but through this experience, I am now able to show students other options. A four-year degree is just not for everyone and experiencing hands on learning while continuing their education is suited for many students that are in our school right now,” she said.

She explained that KY FAME guarantees students a job when their education is complete. “Manufacturing offers good paying jobs that re close to home with state of the art technology,” Morrow added.

Like the rest of the teachers, Brenda Hoover knew very little about the KY FAME program. But, she came away from the externship inspired to further help her students. She understands now that she had shortchanged her students in the past, by not making them more aware of what employers need and the jobs that exist in this area. “I can teach all the content there is to teach,” but she realized that she might not be preparing them for life.

This epitome led her to take action putting the wheels in motion to team up with TTAI representatives. They met over the summer and since then the relationship has progressed with more and more opportunities to enhance student learning.

“Great things are coming down the pike,” said Hoover. “Not only is there going to be KY FAME for manufacturers, but KY FAME for nursing starting next summer. They are working on pathways that could help our students graduate and make more money just by having them complete these pathways.”



Richard Snowden, a TTAI employee with WCHS students and teachers during a dinner meeting

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Tanner Thompson, Bailey Wright, Brenda Hoover, and Tim Withers at the Galt House where the ceremony was held

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Thompson and Wright

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