GTCC FAME program success attracts global interest, visitors

Published on: May 16, 2024
GTCC staff, visitors from Ireland and South Africa, FAME employees, and Guilford County Schools employees pose for a group photo inside GTCC's FAME space in the Center for Advanced Manufacturing.
GTCC welcomed visitors from Ireland and South Africa who hope to establish FAME chapters in their respective countries.

In the fall of 2023, Guilford Technical Community College welcomed its first cohort of the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing (FAME) program. Less than a year later, GTCC’s success with the program has inspired countries overseas to set up chapters of their own.

The FAME USA program provides students with global-best workforce development that leads to a career in advanced manufacturing. The first FAME class at GTCC consists of 13 students who are sponsored by local employers, such as Toyota, Jowat, Inc., P&G, and many more.

“FAME started with Toyota, but it blew way past what we ever anticipated,” said Dennis Dio Parker, former Toyota employee and the original founder of the program. Now, there are 40 chapters across 16 states in the USA.

GTCC is home to the first North Carolina chapter and has already begun to impact the workforce in the state.

“In October of 2022, North Carolina needed qualified employees immediately, and we didn’t have any to provide,” explained Hillary Walser, NC FAME chapter president and Jowat Inc. human resources manager.

“We’d been seeing students who had to drop out of high school to help financially support their families, so when FAME was proposed to me, I jumped on it, as did all of our company partners. We saw this as the light at the end of our tunnel,” she said.

Now, Ireland and South Africa are looking to GTCC to start their own chapters and bolster their own advanced manufacturing sectors.

Waseem Rawat of Toyota South Africa Motors explained why the South African economy is in dire need of these technical skillsets.

“In South Africa, we have a shortage of plant and machine operators and a shortage of technicians. We have a struggle to recruit skilled workers, and our technical skills requirements are very antiquated and have been the same for a long time,” said Rawat.

“We need to keep up with the technology. To fix our technical skills ecosystem, we want to link industry and education, and develop our candidates into proficient technicians through FAME’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program.”

Ireland faces similar struggles. Out of the 5.12 million people who live in the country, only 275,000 work in the manufacturing sector, making up only 11% of the workforce. The country is ready to begin investing in the workforce’s skillset to increase this number.

In September 2024, this effort begins with the first international FAME chapter, based in Ireland.

“Ireland is trying to drive itself into the digital world and find economic success. The main reason for the barriers we face is the lack of technical skillset,” explained Dermot O’Neill, a government agency employee of Cobotics Skillnet. “We’re trying to work with employers in Ireland to upscale our possibilities.”

Lorraine Danaher, director of the Irish Centre of Excellence in Robotic Technology, is confident that the new FAME chapter will impact the economic outputs of the country.

“In Ireland, there is a demand for FAME. We have job openings, and we have education providers, but we’re looking to double our manufacturing output and double the number of advanced manufacturing workers in the next five years,” said Danaher.

The current FAME students at GTCC are set to graduate in May 2025, where they will either enter the workforce directly and begin their careers as advanced manufacturers or continue their education at a four-year institution.

“GTCC is committed to responding to our region’s workforce needs to support our employer partners and economic development across the Triad. Partnering with NC FAME was an excellent opportunity to provide global best training and education for the region’s current and new advanced manufacturing employers,” said Anthony Clarke, Ph.D, president of GTCC.

“I am confident that our partnership with NC FAME will positively impact the technical strength of our workforce over the next few years as the FAME students graduate and begin their careers in advanced manufacturing.”

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