A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

KCTCS preparing students for the high-tech world of manufacturing (not your grandfather’s factory work)


In today’s world of work, manufacturing requires workers to be tech-savvy.

This is no longer your grandfather’s dirty, dark and dangerous factory work.

Today’s manufacturing facilities are bright, clean and high tech. You’re more likely to see employees using consoles to direct the work of robots, instead of doing back-breaking manual labor.

The 16 colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) are preparing students to fill the thousands of open jobs in advanced manufacturing. Last spring, more than 2,600 Kentuckians graduated from KCTCS manufacturing-related programs.

Bettina is finding a ‘better life,’ thanks to KCTCS and ECTC.

KCTCS is the primary provider of advanced manufacturing training in Kentucky. The colleges work with local employers to make sure they offer relevant manufacturing programs that can include:

• Computerized Machining and Manufacturing
• Welding Technology
• Engineering and Electronics Technology
• Electrical Technology
• Computer-Assisted Drafting
• Air Conditioning Technology

KCTCS has partnerships with more than 400 manufacturers. One of those is Akebono Brake Corporation, which works with Elizabethtown Community and Technical College (ECTC). Bettina Black is a recent graduate of ECTC and now works at Akebono. She came from Germany to the U.S. for a better life, which ECTC and Akebono are helping her achieve.

“I came to the states to build my American dream,” she said. “I wanted more for myself, and I like working on things. What I do now is more mechanically inclined and more technical. I learned skills in the [ECTC] lab that help me at Akebono.”

Bettina has returned to ECTC to further her education by studying robotics and automation, which are the future of manufacturing.

Manufacturing is a substantial part of Kentucky’s economy as these numbers from the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers show:

• 250,000 jobs
• 4,500 manufacturing facilities
• $40 billion/20% of the state’s GDP
• $29.2 billion Kentucky-made exports
• 3rd in US auto production.

Although salaries vary by job and company, the Statewide Occupational Employment Wages data provided by the Kentucky Center for Statistics show the average starting salary is nearly $34,000 with a median annual salary of $51,000.

In addition to training the state’s future workforce, KCTCS also works with incumbent workers through the Workforce Solutions program, which provides customized training for employers.

Businesses such as General Motors Corvette plant, 3M, Makers Mark, Jim Beam, Ford and Metalsa have worked with their local colleges for customized training and upskilling their workers. On average, the Workforce Solutions team works with more than 5,200 Kentucky businesses each year. Since 2000, more than three million participants have received training.

For more information on how KCTCS is helping to solve the state’s workforce shortage in manufacturing, visit the Better Lives for a Better Kentucky website.

From Kentucky Community & Technical College System


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