FAME Signing Day pairs WCC students with new employers

August 23, 2023 Fran LeFort

FAME signing event

Thanks to a new Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) work-and-learn apprenticeship program, Ann Arbor Skyline graduate Jarel Reid will work at Toyota Motor North America while studying advanced manufacturing at WCC. (Photo by JD Scott)


Washtenaw Community College, manufacturers and regional workforce development organizations have joined hands to meet industry talent needs through the national Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) work-and-learn apprenticeship program.

WCC recently hosted a “Signing Day” event during which its inaugural cohort of 10 advanced manufacturing students in the new program signed with their employer partners to officially kick off the program with the new academic year.

Students are paired with a sponsoring company to complete a two-year work-and-learn program, equipping students with the skills required for the rapidly evolving manufacturing industry and offering the potential for a debt-free path to an associate degree in less than two years.

WCC was the first higher education institution in the state of Michigan to join FAME. Anchored by Toyota Motor North America, other active employers are Novi Precision, Lomar Machine & Tool Company, Orbitform and Caster Concepts.

“I am most looking forward to the hands-on experience and learning while doing," said Jarel Reid, an Ann Arbor Skyline High School graduate who signed with Toyota, where he will be working in the Research & Development Division. "Before I knew about this program I was going to go for electrical engineering. This hasn’t changed my mind, but I could see it was a good opportunity.”

Reid plans to transfer to Michigan State to further his studies and envisions himself one day creating new products, potentially vehicles.

Reid was among five students who signed with Toyota.

Andrea Guzman, who recently graduated from Melvindale High School, is another new Toyota employee through the FAME program.

“I didn’t plan to go to college only because of the price of college, but now I can leave without debt. We get a job through FAME, and they’re paying you," said Guzman, who is placed at Toyota's York Township facility on the R&D team, where she is learning about CAD. "I’m very excited with everything that is happening and the support I’m getting. It’s awesome.”

Samuel Kozle, a recent Hartland High School graduate who signed with machine manufacturer Novi Precision, said he is also grateful for the opportunity.

“If I hadn’t heard about FAME I wouldn’t have too good a sense of direction about where I was going after high school,” Kozle said, adding that he may not have gone directly to college due to the cost of higher education.

“I didn’t want to get into debt without having a clear path of what I wanted to do, but FAME offers a clear set path into a career and is a great opportunity," Kozle said. "This aligns with my prior work knowledge both mentally and with the hands-on aspect.”

The program offers apprenticeships and educational pathways to an associate degree from WCC and on-the-job training and mentoring through industry partners.

Participants in the FAME program can be recent high school graduates, military members transitioning to the workforce, or individuals looking to move into a new career path. The FAME program is designed to give students hands-on experience while also providing formal education credentials. The program focuses on professional presence and lean manufacturing acumen, as well as formal technical capabilities.

“After years of planning, we are excited to see the FAME program become a reality,” said WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca. "We’re making good on our commitment to students, to educate and train them for high-demand jobs, and to the community, to turn out a highly-skilled workforce. This is a win-win for everyone involved, and we’re thankful for the support of many partners to bring these dreams to life."

Funding to support the MI FAME Michigan Mitten chapter is provided by the Southeast Michigan Community Alliance Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) as part of a $5.8 million Apprenticeship Building America grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Employment and Training Administration.

"Obtaining the Apprenticeship Building America Grant marks a momentous achievement for Southeast Michigan Community Alliance Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN), which allows Washtenaw Community College and five other WIN Board community college partners to build and grow apprenticeships in the region. The establishment of Michigan's inaugural FAME Chapter, the Mitten Chapter, through this grant is met with great enthusiasm. This significant milestone will greatly contribute to the advancement of an apprenticeship ecosystem in the traditional manufacturing sector and non-traditional sectors such as healthcare, winemaking, and early childhood,” said Michele Economou Ureste, WIN Executive Director.

Ann Arbor SPARK is the backbone organization/chapter administrator of the Mitten Chapter’s program and helps recruit both employers and students.

“Through the FAME program, we are igniting a powerful synergy between education and industry, cultivating a skilled workforce that not only drives the growth of our region's advanced manufacturing sector but also sets a precedent for collaboration and innovation,” said Paul Krutko, President and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. “This initiative exemplifies the transformative impact that occurs when employers, educators, and community leaders unite to shape the future, fostering economic prosperity and opportunity for generations to come.”

Michigan Works! Southeast is also supporting the FAME initiative in Michigan’s Mitten Chapter.

Applications to join the Fall 2024 cohort opens on September 1 and may be submitted on the MI FAME Mitten Chapter website




“This is going to drive home what I want to learn, mechatronics and robotics. Ultimately, my goal is to become a robotics engineer. I want to create something new and be a part of it, too. At Toyota I’ll be helping with data collection and testing and giving it back to the engineers. I’ll also be doing drive train. I’m keeping my eyes open. I want to learn as much as I can and stay as long as I can.” – Darrius Johnson, a recent Washtenaw Technical Middle College graduate from Ypsilanti, working at Toyota’s Ann Arbor Research & Development group.

“I’m excited that I get to work three days a week and then be in school two days a week. At Lomar you’re in a job shop and regular factory. Buyers come in, and we build our own machines – crimping machines, rack and pinion machines. I have discovered machining. I could be operating a new invention someday.” – Brandon Gordon, recent Blissfield High School graduate working at Lomar Machine & Tool Company.

“I came back to school last summer after 10 years because I was looking for a career change and for something more stable. I realized how much I enjoyed learning. This path started because I wanted to be an electrician, and then I heard about FAME.” – Andrew Denton, 32, Ypsilanti


Tags: Advanced Manufacturing, Apprenticeships, December 2023, MI FAME, On The Record

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