Kenneth Erwin watched his father lead a career in welding, and it sparked the Marion High School student’s interest in the profession.

With the help of a new program being offered in Guadalupe County, Erwin will have the opportunity to follow the path his dad laid and simultaneously earn a college degree.

“I’ve been in the welding program (at school) since my freshman year,” Erwin said. “My dad is a welder and I want to follow his footsteps.”

On Nov. 3, Kenneth and classmates attended a ceremony announcing the creation of the Texas Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education Lone Star Chapter.

Dubbed TX FAME Lone Star Chapter, the training partnership provides advanced manufacturing technical training for students who are sponsored by area companies. Students attend classes two days a week at the Central Texas Technology Center and work three days a week at their respective places of employment.

Stakeholders partnered with Texas State Technical College to offer the innovative program that benefits manufacturers and members of the area’s workforce.

Students who successfully complete the program earn an Associates of Applied Science degree in Advanced Manufacturing Technology through Texas State Technical College. As part of the program, students receive 1,800 hours of hands-on experience during the apprenticeship program, which is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor.

“The students and workers in our region deserve to have multiple opportunities for their future,” said Jason Dinscore, board president of the TX FAME Lone Star Chapter and area manager of quality systems for CMC Steel Texas. “By creating a pipeline of talent in a high-demand field, we are ensuring people have access to well-paying jobs and our area is equipped to attract and retain business.”

Both Seguin and New Braunfels’ economic development corporations, Texas State Technical College, area school districts, employers and Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education USA collaborated to form the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education Lone Star Chapter. It is an initiative of The Manufacturing Institute, said Tony Davis, national director of FAME USA.

The program presents a learn-and-earn situation for students, he said.

“People can earn money while they work,” Davis said. “They get a degree.”

As they finish the program, graduates also will have developed valuable on-the-job training, Dinscore said. They learn technical skills and gain experience as well as become well-rounded employees for the companies that hire them and choose them for the program, he said.

Involved local companies include Alamo Industrial, AmeriTex Pipe and Products, Caterpillar Inc., CMC Steel Texas, Minigrip, Republic Plastics, among others.

Texas State Technical College will oversee classes to help build exemplary employees at these and other companies, TSTC Chancellor and CEO Mike Reeser said.

TSTC only trains high-value technical programs and focuses on turning out students who want quality jobs with quality corporations, he said.

“Texas industrial employers are the lifeblood of the economy,” Reeser said. “Regrettably, they often suffer a shortage of skilled talent that gets them an opportunity at their full potential. A training center like this lets them get to that potential.”

Manufacturers through TX FAME will enjoy benefits of a blossoming talent pool and employees earn degrees and good salaries simultaneously, he said. It’s a win-win for everyone, Reeser said.

Erwin plans to apply for a position in the program through Alamo Group Inc., which he learned about during at a field trip on Manufacturing Day in Seguin, about a week prior to the TX FAME ceremony and was convinced it is for him.

“They said you can work three days and go to school two days, get paid and finish your degree,” Kenneth said. “I will be able to gain experience working, expand my knowledge of new technologies and qualifications.”

Classes are scheduled to start in August 2023.

For more information on the TX FAME Lone Star Chapter, go to lonestarfame.com .

Dalondo Moultrie is the assistant managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at dalondo.moultrie@seguingazette.com .

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