KY FAME: Building Kentucky’s Future Workforce

Imagine how great it would be if somehow you could discover a high-paying, interesting career while earning a degree – with no college debt when it’s all over.

For business owners, how much time, money and resources could you save if you always had a pool of highly skilled and motivated workers right at your fingertips?

Imagine no more. The Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) is taking its successful apprenticeship-style training program and expanding into a statewide organization.

KY FAME is a partnership of manufacturers that have teamed up to address the shortage of technically skilled workers needed in advanced manufacturing. KY FAME offers an innovative education and helps Kentucky create one of the most highly skilled and effective advanced manufacturing workforces on the planet.

How does KY FAME work? Students attend classes two days per week at their local community college and work an additional 24 hours per week for a sponsoring employer. Upon completion of the program, students receive an associate degree in Applied Sciences, and, with the practical skills gained during their paid work experience, most begin full-time employment with the sponsor. Others decide to further their technical education to obtain an engineering degree.

Dalton Ballard is a KY FAME student at Toyota. He turned down a scholarship to a four-year university to participate in the program. “KY FAME is giving me the experience to go anywhere and work wherever I want to,” he said. “I’ll have the choice of getting a high-paying job or continuing my education. That is what’s so great about the program. It’s also great that I’ll graduate without any college debt. Not too many people can say that.”

KY FAME began in 2010 as a company-sponsored partnership of regional employers in central Kentucky. The program has become so successful that it’s expanding—adding three new chapters in Greater Louisville, Northern Kentucky and the Lincoln Trail regions. Chapters in eastern and western Kentucky also are in the works as the goal is to expand the program statewide.

“KY FAME will have a significant impact on northern Kentucky,” said Mike Hirsch, vice president of operations at ZF Steering in Florence and president of the KY FAME Northern Kentucky Chapter. “I’m confident the program will provide real solutions to the workforce challenges facing our local manufacturers and provide a strong career path for our students.”

Many of Kentucky’s large, international companies, such as Toyota, 3M and Hitachi, have reaped the benefits of KY FAME, but the program is as equally beneficial for small companies. Danette Wilder, president and CEO of Lexington-based SealingLife Technology, has been using KY FAME for her small, minority-owned business for the past four years.

“KY FAME is a win for small businesses,” said Wilder. “Many small businesses have limited budgets, and KY FAME gives me a hands-on labor force at a competitive cost. The program has really helped my company thrive in central Kentucky.”

To help bring about the statewide expansion, KY FAME has created a board of directors composed of both private and public leaders from all parts of the state. The board’s role will be to work with communities and companies to develop new KY FAME chapters and programming. It also will facilitate the sharing of best practices and oversee the expansion to make sure it stays focused on its goals.

Learn more about how KY FAME can help you at

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 Think Kentucky eNewsletter. Read additional articles or subscribe to the bi-monthly eNewsletter here.