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Toyota Fills Talent Gap

Toyota doesn’t assemble vehicles in Michigan. Yet, Toyota Motor North America R&D — with facilities in Ann Arbor and Saline — does have jobs that need to be filled by highly capable manufacturing technicians who can hit the ground running. However, such people are in short supply. And America’s educational system, as currently configured, simply isn’t rising to the occasion to help prepare young people for these types of specialized careers. Toyota Fills Talent Gap.

To try to fill this gap, TMNA R&D recently embraced a program that has proven to be incredibly successful since Toyota launched it more than 10 years ago. It’s called the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME). Now, Michigan has its first FAME chapter (MI FAME Mitten Chapter), joining 39 other chapters in 14 states that connect community colleges with some 425 sponsoring companies.

“We had heard such good things about this program,” said Meg Wallace, a senior engineer in Technical Strategy and Planning who was tasked with creating the chapter. “We’re not a plant, but we need technicians — not just engineers. In fact, 20% of the workforce across all of Michigan is comprised of technicians. So, the objectives of the FAME program were really a perfect fit for what so many of the employers in this area need.”

Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME)

FAME’s roots can be traced back to Dennis Parker, who has dedicated his more than 30-year career at Toyota to attracting, training and hiring the skilled team members the company needs to keep its North American manufacturing operations humming along.

“FAME was designed first and foremost for employers, not the colleges or the students,” Parker said. “The goal is to produce the best entry level manufacturing employees that will give Toyota, as well as other employers who have embraced FAME, a competitive advantage when it comes to talent.”

By design, the FAME program balances two days each week in the classroom with three days in the workplace. FAME students, who must have a high school diploma, commit to this routine for eight hours a day, five days a week for five consecutive semesters. In the end, they receive an associates degree from the community college and — in all likelihood —a good-paying job in their area of expertise from their sponsoring employer. What they don’t get is student debt because the income they earn while working for the sponsoring employer can cover all of their college and living expenses.

Another key differentiator, says Parker, is an academic curriculum that’s balanced equally among three types of courses:

1) relevant technologies;

2) the principles of lean manufacturing and analytical problem solving (aka the Toyota Production System); and

3) professional behaviors, or “soft skills.”

Manufacturing Institute

Toyota led the way with FAME in its formative years. But to ensure it would continue to grow, it handed the reins over to the Manufacturing Institute in 2019.

Now, Michigan has its first FAME chapter. Wallace serves as the president of the Mitten Chapter. Tyler Ray is in charge of student recruiting and is the lead mentor for the students at R&D. Washtenaw Community College in Ypsilanti provides the academic component. And Toyota, Orbitform, Lomar, Novi Precision Products, Caster Concepts and C&B have stepped up as the initial sponsoring employers. And Ann Arbor Spark is the administrator of the chapter and Workforce Intelligence Network is the hub.

The inaugural class, with nine students, began their journey down this path last fall. Those assigned to TMNA R&D are currently working alongside team members in facilities, testing and powertrain evaluation.

“We’re just getting started with this. But there’s every reason to believe FAME will have a big impact on our future workforce,” Wallace said. “This is a new model for everyone, so there are challenges with that. But there are also big rewards. It is incredibly gratifying.”

Source: Toyota Fills Talent Gap


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