April 25, 2019 / Earn and Learn - Get a career head start in advanced manufacturing
Part 3 of a multi-part series
PHOTO 1- Chris Downey graduated from Toyota’s Advanced
Manufacturing Technician Program in 2017. The AMT Program is a
partnership between Vincennes University and the Federation for
Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME). ###
PHOTO 2 - NASCAR
driver Garrett Smithley, right, operates a robot in the Vincennes
University manufacturing lab with assistance from Chris Downey. ###
VINCENNES, Ind. - Earn while you learn best describes Chris
Downey’s approach to his college education.
The Winslow, Indiana, native split his time between taking
classes at the Vincennes University Campus and doing hands-on work at
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana located nearby in Princeton.
Downey is a graduate of Toyota’s Advanced Manufacturing
Technician Program, which provides the best of both worlds to
participating students. The program is designed to include a two-year
degree in Advanced Manufacturing Automation Technology and provide
paid employment. The student graduates with real-world experience and
global manufacturing partners get a tested employee.
“I was basically training for the job that I took once I
graduated,” says Downey. “It’s a great opportunity to get your foot in
the door at a top manufacturing facility in this part of Indiana. It
starts building your network. It’s a good way to lead into a good job
and a good career. There is future advancement if you want it.”
The demand for advanced manufacturing technicians is high as
manufacturers struggle to find highly trained and skilled employees.
VU is helping them overcome the workforce shortages with work-based
learning partnerships such as the AMT program, the Advanced Internship
in Manufacturing (AIM) program in the Lafayette region, and the Career
Advancement Partnership (CAP) program in Jasper.
There are more than 14,900 available advanced manufacturing
jobs in Indiana, according to the state’s Next Level Jobs initiative
website. Many of those technical positions require postsecondary
training and education.
The AMT program is a partnership between VU and the Federation
for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) partners: Berry Global,
Hershey, Flair Molded Plastics, Farbest Foods Inc., Metal
Technologies, Presta North America, Toyota Indiana, Toyota Boshoku
Indiana, and Toyota Boshoku Illinois LLC.
Downey simultaneously had classroom training and worked as an
intern at the automotive manufacturing plant.
“I would go to school three days a week and work two days a
week,” Downey says. “When I was at work, we would be doing things and
talking about things that I was also doing that same week or same
semester in class. If I had any spare time, I could talk with the guys
who have been doing it for 20 years.”
Another benefit is AMT graduates have an opportunity to finish
the program with little or no debt. Students can potentially earn as
much as $40,000 in salary which, with planning, can cover all their
education expenses. Students work as paid interns 16 hours a week,
with many starting at $17 per hour.
“What I earned during my AMT program covered my costs,”
explains Downey. “I don’t have any debt. The first year out, you can
make good enough money to pay for any debt you accumulate at VU.”
A week after completing the AMT program in 2017, TMMI hired
Downey full time. He works in facilities maintenance - the same
department in which he interned.
There are many career advancement opportunities for advanced
manufacturing technicians. Downey received a promotion in early 2018
and has since been promoted again. He is now in a supervisory role and
is a Skilled Group Leader.
Retiring baby boomers and future retiring technicians have
impacted the number of available advanced manufacturing jobs. For
Downey that signifies job security.
“It’s neat to see we are the next generation coming in,” he said.
Graduates hired by AMT partners can potentially earn as much as
$64,000 yearly in addition to excellent benefits.
“For some it’s two years out and you’re already making the same
money as some people would make with a bachelor’s degree,” Downey said.
At just 22 years old, Downey is set to close on his first home.
“I’ve been able to go out and get a car without having any type
of loan,” he said. “Work a year or so and work overtime, then you’re
definitely ready to start your life as an adult and make all the big purchases.”
Another major milestone is on the horizon. Downey has continued
his education while working at TMMI and is enrolled in VU’s Purdue
Polytechnic Institute working toward obtaining a baccalaureate degree
in technology. He expects to complete the degree program in 2020.
Learn more about the AMT program
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY - Indiana’s First College
VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper,
the Aviation Technology Center and American Sign Language program in
Indianapolis, Early College Career and Technical Education Centers,
and additional sites such as the Gene Haas Training and Education
Center in Lebanon, the Logistics Training and Education Center in
Plainfield, and the Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing
and Logistics in Fort Branch. A leader in developing Early Colleges
statewide, VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.
In addition to offering a wide range of associate degree and
certificate programs, VU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in
technology, homeland security, nursing, secondary education programs
in mathematics and science, and special education/elementary education.
VU enrolls students from throughout Indiana, 35 other states,
and 17 countries. Tuition and fees are the lowest among Indiana
campuses with residence halls. VU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Founded in 1801, VU is Indiana’s first college and is the only
college in the nation founded by an individual who would later become
President of the United States. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S.
President, founded VU while serving as governor of the Indiana
Territory. More information is available at www.vinu.edu
Vincennes University Newsroom
MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports
812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell,
Communications Coordinator & Online Newsroom Manager
812-888-4162 office, 812-887-4635 cell, VUNews@vinu.edu,
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University