“It’s a big deal,” said Guilford Technical Community College President Tony Clarke as he prepared on Jan. 31 to announce a partnership between the school and the North Carolina Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, or NC FAME, program. 

“NC FAME, The First in Flight chapter, is going to have a direct and immediate impact on the Triad’s workforce,” said Clarke. “Along with classroom time, students will be on the floor with a local manufacturing company learning valuable skills while getting paid a good salary. When they successfully complete the program, they will step into a well-paying job or have the option of transferring to a four-year school. 

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GTCC President Dr. Tony Clarke and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper answer questions following the NC FAME announcement.

“At the same time the company is gaining an employee they know is well-trained and skilled. It’s a great investment in our future here in the Triad.”

The work-study program is for two years and debt-free, with the earnings from on-the-job training potentially paying for the course. Graduates earn an associate of science degree. Training will be at the college’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing on West Gate City Boulevard.

The four NC FAME sponsor companies, Jowat Adhesives in Archdale, MasterBrand Cabinets in Lexington, Toyota Battery Mfg. NC, in Liberty, and Zielh-Abegg in Greensboro.

“This is a great day for workers and businesses in North Carolina,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “Community colleges are our not-so-secret weapon. Companies all over the world know about the North Carolina community college system, which I think is the best in the country. This is exciting that businesses want to come and partner with community colleges.”

He remarked that so many new jobs are created in the Triad region and he was excited to announce a new way to fill those jobs.

Cooper said to get those new jobs, the workforce needs quality childcare, education and training. 

Cooper noted that in the past, people learned a trade by becoming an apprentice to someone who could teach them. That is the basis of NC FAME.

“This excites me,” Cooper said. “For years businesses invested in apprenticeships and internships. Over the years … businesses moved away from apprenticeships. But necessity is the mother of invention and we know how much our businesses need a quality workforce. We know [apprenticeships and internships] are coming back.”

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Zebidiah Downey,  GTCC’s welding technology instructor, shows Gov. Roy Cooper a robotic welding machine.

Don Stewart, Toyota Battery vice president, said this was the first FAME chapter, the First in Flight Chapter, in North Carolina and the state is only the 14th to have a FAME program. The training received will help close the skills gap.

When he first visited GTCC, Tony Davis, FAME National Director for the Manufacturing Institute, was amazed at the people and teaching at the school.

“This is going to be second to none,” Davis said. “Employers have a distinct need and are collaborating with local partners to expand career pathway opportunities for the region’s workforce by bringing this powerful program to their area.”

Toyota Battery created FAME in 1988 as a way to train students in advanced manufacturing technology. It moved to the Manufacturing Institute for National Scaling in 2019. Today, the Manufacturing Institute is the workforce development and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Dennis Parker, the founder of FAME, issued a challenge to GTCC: “Make this North Carolina FAME First in Flight Chapter the best chapter in the entire FAME network. This school has the ability and potential to do that.”

Clarke explained the students are in what he called “cohorts”. There will be approximately 30 students in the first cohort. The new program begins August 2023 and current students are eligible to enter NC FAME. With only 30 students in the program, NC FAME will pick the most-qualified students.

“It is an honor, and further validation of GTCC’s impact on our community, that FAME would chose the college for its first chapter in North Carolina,” said George Ragsdale, a member of GTCC Board of Trustees. “Dr. Clarke and his leadership team do a fantastic job and continue to build a trained workforce unsurpassed in North Carolina. This workforce is one of the primary drivers of all the new job and economic growth we are seeing in the area. We are certain to see this continue to grow and benefit all residents of the Triad now that the FAME/GTCC partnership has been established.”

For more information, visit https://gtcc.edu/gtccfame or https://fame-usa.com.

GTCC will present information sessions on the Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program Feb. 16 from 6-7 p.m. The meetings will be held at the Medlin Campus Center on the Jamestown Campus.

The information sessions will provide the opportunity to speak with employer partners about what to expect from on-the-job training, learn about the employer partner companies, and learn the FAME program requirements, selection process and advanced manufacturing technology pathway.

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