The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 week ago

Why It’s Time to Modernize Workforce Education (& How to Do It) w/ Kathy Walker


One of the biggest challenges in the industry today?

Upskilling the country’s workforce for careers in advanced manufacturing.

Training centers and technical schools need to step in to fill the skills gap, but many of them are still training for the jobs of yesterday.

It’s time to modernize workforce education.

Kathy Walker, Founder & CEO of eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute (eKAMI), joins the show to discuss eKAMI’s innovative and unconventional training program, which is upskilling eastern Kentucky’s workforce after years of declining employment in the mining industry.

In this episode, we discuss:

- eKAMI’s role in workforce development and training

- Why we need to modernize workforce education

- Potential career paths for eKAMI graduates

- Why soft skills are equally important

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For any manufactures out therelistening, who are looking for a home with an incredibly skilled and capableand hard working workforce, Easton Kentucky is open for business. Welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving midsize manufacturers forward here, you'll discover new insights frompassionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and you'll learn from B to B sales andmarketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's get into the show, welcome to another episode of theManufacturing Executive Podcast, I'm Joe Sullivan Your House and a Cofounder of the Industrial Marketing Agency Garol. Seventy six, while mostof the manufacturing sector throughout the United States, works tirelessly tofill jobs. That can't seem to be filled. There's a land not so far away EasternKentucky, specifically where a new work force is emerging, being trained inmachining robotics and advanced manufacturing, they're, skilled workersand they're hungry for jobs in this sector. My guest today is the founderand CEO of an incredible establishment in Appalachia that should serve as amodel for how to attract and build the future of the manufacturing work force.This episode isn't just about ideas, because this organization is actuallydoing it. So let me introduce her Kathy Walker moved to paint till Kentuckyover thirty years ago from the Washington DC area, her first smalltown experience cathy quickly adapted to life in Rural Kentucky, enjoying theslower pace, natural beauty and most of all, the people. An entrepreneur, Cathybegan her career in the coal industry later diversifying into the bankingbusiness she's, a civic leader and member of several public and privateboards, including a former chair of the board of Morehead State University. Forthe past several years, Kathy has dedicated her time to creating jobs forthe people of Eastern Kentucky. Developing the e Kentucky AdvancedManufacturing, Institute e came e cane is re, skilling the regions, work forcefor new careers and advanced manufacturing. Numerous national newsand trade publications of highlighted the success of the innovative andunconventional ekame training program in central Appalachia Kathy. Welcome tothe show and Q Jo, a pleasure to be here. Well, I'm really excited about thisconversation. A few months ago I had Aaron Prather from Fedex on the show,and he told me a story of a group of former coal miners in Kentucky who wentfrom zero, robotics knowledge to lights, up production in ten days, which waspretty cool to hear about, and then I later learned that it was yourorganization came that was behind it, and I immediately knew that I had toget you on the show. So here you are. Thank you well cat. Can you kind ofjust start things out by telling our listeners about what e came is and howit came to be sure. So Me Cami, we are a workforce Development Training Centerlocated in Paintsville Kentucky, which is in the eastern part of the state,about a hundred miles east of like Sington Kentucky, and we are outskilling the regions, work for for new careers and the advance manufacturingindustry. More specifically, CNC, machining and robotics. We are teachingin demand skills and in preparation for jobs of today's economy, so became a alittle bit of history. This initiative was started to address the need for jobcreation and economic diversification in this area following years ofdeclining employment in the mining...

...industry. So when that industry beganto fame not only the direct mining jobs, but all the support industries took ahit with it, so we have thousands of incredibly talented and still peoplewho were left without meaningful job opportunities. So we had to dosomething and it can be started about four years ago and its approach hasbeen kind of untraditional. We are a Hoss Center, we partner with Gen HossFoundation, so this is a has technical education center and we have developedup today. Curriculum and our people are being sought after buying ployers allacross the country and they're doing everything from CNC machining toinstalling robots customer support and we're very proud of the success thatthey have had that far yeah. It's really amazing. I've heard about yourorganization through a number of different sources. Not just Aaron praythere, but talk a little bit about your personal journey. How did you wind upin the middle of all this? Well, that's an interesting question. I am not outof a manufacturing sector nor the education space. I just saw the needfor life beyond cold, and I saw so much talent in the workforce here and that'sa misconception among many people. The talent that exists here is justexceptional and the skills that the people in this part of the country haveare born out of really necessity. Rather than choice. It's amazing. They they are multiskilled. They know a little bit about a lot of different skills and I basically just tapped into thatand try to figure out what would make sense what would be a fit for theworkforce and a fit for the culture and a fit for this location, and ithappened to be CNC machining and the people love it they're good at workingwith their hands, and although it was a little intimidatingat first to walk in training center, like he came, I mean in state of theart we have all the latest and greatest equipment. We've been eating theelephant one by at a time, and everyone has done just exceptionally well. Weare military style here we teach not only the cutting edge technical skillsbut sauce skills as well, so we're very strict and not everybody makes it most.People make it through if they come with the commitment to want to getthrough. We stress, punctuality, a respect in the world place commoncourtesy, really business, edicate problem, solving skills, we promoteteam work and it's really been a compliment to the technical skills thatwere training well. What's really interesting to me is that you havealmost the opposite problem: that much of the manufacturing sectorsexperiencing right now, where you've got to work force, at least from whatI'm hearing from you you've got a work for us that wants to go to work, butwhere traditional industry has faded away. Whereas most of what I hear frompeople throughout the country is in manufacturing is you know there are somany jobs open and nobody to fill them? What do you think is the differencelike what? Why is this going on, where... are in Eastern Kentucky versuselsewhere? Yeah, that's a good question! Well, Joe! Basically, one industry has dominated theeconomies of most all of these communities up and down the river, andso when you have a sole industry when the bottom drops out of that you'releft with few alternis, and so the overarching goal of became is toattract manufacturers to this part of the country to replace the thousands ofjobs that are permanently fine. And it's a great time. I think our time isimpeccable, so for any manufactures out there listening who are looking for ahome with an incredibly skilled and capable and hard working workforce.Easton Kentucky is open for Business Kathy. You clearly saw a need to fillin work force education. What, if anything, do you think maybe hasn'tbeen working? The way it needs to inside the education system for themanufacturing work force? Well now I want to I'm out of the business sector,so I probably view the situation through a different set of lenses. Sowhen I began this, certainly I did my research andhomework and it appears that we've been talking about the skill gap.If you will for many years- and you know quite candidly- the emergingtechnology is outpacing the expertise needed to support industry, and so wehave the innovations. Americans are regraded innovations and we have themanufacturers in dire need of the automation, what's missing the bridgeor the boots on the ground people to deploy that automation, and so I thinkit's incumbent upon the training, centers and technical schools to bridgethat gap and what I have found is in a lot of cases, were still training forjobs of yesterday, jobs that no longer exist and we need to transition into the newgeneration jobs and there's just a lag there. There is a huge gap. I can tellyou that what we are focused on here, the coming are the jobs of today. So Ibelieve that as a whole as a country, we need to update in modernize ourmanufacturing education system. So with the current system, maybe you knowneeding to get up to speed more and the modernized for the jobs that are neededright now, like how much of the workforce education burden from thispoint forward. Do you believe needs to fall on the shoulders of the privatesector or the manufacturers themselves? Well, I believe it is requires acolaborer among all the stakeholders, certainly in the stream should be driving what we're teachingand I can tell you one hundred percent- the industry- drives what we teach hereat the Cammin and Warnin. The curriculum that we began with is notwhat we're teaching today we adopt and constantly solicit feedback fromindustry. In point of fact, a lot of our curriculum has been developed with industry and in hand, so industryneeds to set at the forefront, and...

...certainly academia and our policymakers need to be engaged in that S. conversations as well, but we've lostour way. There's you know we're on different tracks, which I think is thereason we are where we are today. We're behind. You know opportunity to recurethese tremendously great manufacturing jobs to thiscountry opportunities knocking at the door and we're still trying to getready and there's a nine hundred. One call in my mind to overhaul what we'vebeen doing in the education space yeah. It makes sense. You know I'm justthinking of it. For my perspective, I'm a marketing guy and working with themanufacturing sector, but I see what's being taught in the schools and it'svery different from the what I need in from people in their jobs here, and Idon't know how much of that is true in your world. But it's definitely true inmy world in marketing and you need the people who are in this day in and dayout and are seeing all the technology advance so quickly to play a role ineducating the soon to be work force. So again, I can't speak to it from yourperspective, but I imagine there are some parallels ere absolutely and infact I think that you know we're more focused here on Pusendorf, but I thinka lot of the exposure could begin in the secondary school. So we've had, forexample, the local high schools. They brought some juniors and seniors andhigh school to e Camin recently and once they saw what this was, what it istoday they were really excited. I mean they had no idea about what advancedmanufacturing of the twenty first century looks like. So, in fact, I havemeeting this afternoon. They want to come back. I mean they're willing tothey're ready to get started, and so I think, if we can reach down and presentto students in high school, maybe even Grad School and let them see the verydynamic and exciting opportunities there are that that we could begin toattract some of the newer generations to the workforce. I've heard fromenough manufacturing leaders to know that one of the challenges on thatfront is the parents and they don't want their kids to grow up to befactory workers, and you know their perception of what manufacturing is. SoI'm curious what you have to say about that, and specifically maybe what acareer path may look like based on the success of students who have movedthrough your Emmy Program Right. Well, that's interesting, because I've hadsome parents come here who are professionals and because there theirchildren have said. That's where I want to go and in force they're all aboutfor your educations, and I want to make it clear that attending a program likeYe came wherever it might be. Does not necessarily preclude a four year,education, an engineering degree or something so it made me a bit ontraditional, but we've actually had number one. I've had several studentsattend here with Bachelor's degrees number two we have students who haveattended the program and they're working for global companiesnow who are paying for them to go to night school at a four year institution.So to me that might be the best of all worlds. You have your training on thejob and you know maybe going to UK engineering school at night orsomething so and you know they reimburse and so they're able to havetheir education paid for and and it's...

...something that they know that they wantto do, and so that is something again it's thinking out of the box and thinkthings are changing. So why not? You know the adults attend here for fivemonths and our youth program. We have two separate co ports, so we have aprogram for displaced workers, and that is a five month program and our youthprogram, and these would be, for kids, say, eighteen to twenty three years oldright out of high school. That's a ten month program, so you know smallinvestment and certainly like I said it's they're young. They still havetime to go to school, it they so desire, and with regard to parents, thinkingthat these are factory jobs. I wish we could delete the word factory from ourvocabulary. I think when you say that word, it automatically puts you in mindof the dirty dark and dangerous industries of the past and advancedmanufacturing of today is far from that. It's more like what you see here at tCamin. So I think the industry as a whole needs to work on rebrandingitself, you're a marketing person Joe. So I'm sure you see where I'm goingthere and again exposing people to what this really is. Today. These are hightech, really cool jobs, and most everybody who comes in here wants to dothis. They just weren't aware that it looks like this absolutely cathymentioned earlier: The importance of developing soft skills. Let's come backto that for a second. What do you mean when you say soft skills? Why are theyso critical and how have you had success? Gilling up your train es inthese areas, sevot skills, the intangible skills, are imbedded in theprogram here in became, I'm often asked. How do you teach those we learn bydoing day one and were on military time, fifteen minutes early or year late, sowe start class at eight o'clock and everyone has to be in their desk withtheir litton, fired up and Machina calculator and everything they need byseven forty five and we're really strict. We have rules and we enforcethem. You know just common courtesy. I think we've lost our way to a degreebusiness etiquette. You know what you tensils are yours and you know when youbegin eating and the discussion at the dinner table and we have fun, we havemock dinners and everyone gets to participate and we teach about thebalance. You know you could have a highly technical person with zero softskills. You know maybe a person who can't get along with the people heworks with and comes in late, and we make those comparisons. And you know ifthis were your shop, which one would you hire that guy or the person who hasokay technical skills, but is really as strong interpersonal skills? And youknow you can train the rest of the technical skills, but it's difficultfor people to take time to teach the SA skills in a lot of businesses. Justwon't they just you know. A lot of people eventually work their way out ofthose companies. So I think that's I'm confident that has contributed to a lotof our success. The employers provide constant feedback on our people andtheir punctuality, their appearance, the team work. You know, problemsolving skills, we practice...

...communication skills, public speaking,there's a long list and it's been effective where we're getting extremelyhigh marks on that O congrats. It's such an important part of of trainingthat I think sometimes gets overlooked. Frankly, it does, I think expectationsare that people are taught these things at home and in a lot of times that thatjust doesn't happen so we're taking the time to try to bring them up to speedon all those things. Cathy, my hope is that what you are building at Ekame canserve as a model to inspire other regions in the country how to embracethe work force. That's already there. What advice can you give themanufacturing world about how to tap into the talent? That's there in yourback yard and show them what's possible in terms of a career in manufacturing.Yes, I think that the model that we have developed would be successful inother parts of the country really on the club. I think it's important thatthe instructors are from the area and have a connection with the people. Forexample, several of my instructors are former coal miners and so they'reteaching their brothers and sisters they're from the area they cancommunicate and they understand what makes our people take. You know howthey think and why they think they understand the lifestyle theyunderstand. Where they've been and where they're going so I would juststress that I think, most importantly, that you have people teaching who are of apeople. It's good advice. Is there anything? I did not ask you about Kathyor a success or you'd like to tell, or you know something you want tocommunicate to our listeners from the manufacturing world here before we puta rap on this one. Well, I just would like to say that we have hundresstories. Everybody who comes to Caman has a story, especially a lot of thepeople out of the mining in the stream number one. They were unaware that thisindustry, this high tech industry, existed and number two. They neverdreamed that they have an opportunity to participate, and anybody can do this. This is if people have the commitment and the desire to learn CNC machiningfor robotics. They can learn it and myself. For example, I do not have anychemical bone in my body, but I can learn this technology, and these areincredibly empowering jobs. Their well paid jobs grade benefits greatcompanies and there are millions of jobs open right now. So there'ssomething out there for everybody, whether it's like I said earlier in theCNC machining Metrology, customer support, applications, engineering,there's something for everyone who may have an interest great and they're, notfactory jobs, right, no factory, awesome! Well Kathy! This is a reallygreat conversation. I appreciate you doing this today. Likewise, Iappreciate the opportunity, so thank you very much you bet. So where can ouraudience get in touch with you and where can they go to learn more aboutYe Cammy? We have a website where I don't think we're under construction,yet we're in the process of developing a new website, but e Y, a MICO andwe're on Linkedin as well linked in is probably the best place to get in touchwith me and welcome any Benny and every...

...bedding perfect. Well, I wouldencourage everybody listening to go check out what Kame's doing and whatCathy's making happen there. It's it's a pretty special thing and just adifferent way of thinking about one of the biggest problems out therethat we have in this country right now, and so I applaud you Kathy for whatyou've been able to accomplish today. Thank you to appreciate it usome, Cathy,once again thanks for doing this today and as for the rest of you, I hope tocatch you on the next episode of the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to themanufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episodesubscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learnmore about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an everexpanding collection of articles, videos guides and tools, specificallyfor B, to B manufacturers at Grilla, seventy sixcom, lash and learning.Thank you so much for listening until next time. I.

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