April 25, 2019 / Earn and Learn - Get a career head start in advanced manufacturing
Part 3 of a multi-part series
Chris Downey photos
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
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