Terry McKelvey has always liked making things. Born in Huntsville, Alabama, he worked two part-time jobs in high school that showed him what modern manufacturing looked like. And when FAME program leaders visited the facility where he worked, he discovered the path to a full-time, long-term career.
The FAME program trains students of all ages and backgrounds, from recent high school graduates to experienced manufacturing employees looking to advance their careers. FAME is an earn-and-learn apprenticeship where students spend time in the classroom and on the shop floor. After two years, students graduate with an Advanced Manufacturing Technician degree and no student debt. Originally developed and refined by Toyota, stewardship of the FAME program has recently transitioned to The Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers. FAME chapters are currently operating in 13 states with nearly 400 partner companies, and the Manufacturing Institute intends to further expand the program nationwide.
Today, McKelvey is in his fourth semester of the FAME program at Toyota’s Huntsville facility. He particularly enjoys the hands-on aspect of his work, and has appreciated the chance to gain insights from a wide range of mentors and coworkers, including former FAME program participants.
“As part of the program, we’re able to work with new mentors and new groups every semester—and that gives me the opportunity to learn so much more,” said McKelvey. “Hearing from a whole bunch of people instead of just one person in particular helps me branch out and understand different concepts.”
Those different concepts have expanded McKelvey’s appreciation for the manufacturing industry, offering him a broader view of the different types of available roles.
“Being in this program has showed me that there’s so much more to manufacturing,” said McKelvey. “It’s not just the production aspect. It’s not just shipping and handling. It gets much more in-depth. You can understand the machines you work with on an entirely different level –and you see new things every day.”
McKelvey encourages people considering the FAME program to embrace the new challenges and experiences the program exposes students to. He says that the experience pays off, and that program participants can count on their colleagues for support. In fact, the tight-knit community he has created with other people in his program have been one of the highlights for McKelvey.
“We’re pretty close,” said McKelvey. “We’re like a family. We help each other out. If someone misses a day, we’ll check in on them. We look out for each other.”
What sets FAME apart from other apprenticeship programs is that it teaches the skills and the culture of manufacturing. Students graduate with the tools to not just fill open jobs—but to be successful leaders in the manufacturing industry.