What do a high school French teacher and careers in manufacturing have in common? At first glance, absolutely nothing.
However, last summer I was given an opportunity to put these two apparently unrelated topics together through my experiences with the KY FAME program. The Kentucky Foundation for Advanced Manufacturing (KY FAME) is a statewide partnership between area manufacturers and local educational institutions to identify and train postsecondary students interested in careers in manufacturing and skilled trades. This partnership was created to provide employers with highly-qualified employees in order for Kentucky’s economy to remain globally competitive.
The program’s design is simple. Area community and technical colleges offer an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program that allows students to take classes while working at one of the sponsoring manufacturers. High school seniors apply for this competitive program and are interviewed and selected by area manufacturers who support and participate in the KY FAME program.
Upon graduation from high school, students take college classes part-time and work for one of these local companies – all while being paid a competitive wage. After five semesters, students have earned an associate degree, AMT certification and work experience with global manufacturers.
If you have never heard of this AMT program offered by your area technical college, you are not alone. I was not aware of this outstanding opportunity available to my students until I received an email this past spring about KY FAME and its summertime professional learning opportunities for teachers. I knew next to nothing about manufacturing careers. I’m always searching for unconventional ways to connect language learning to real-world experiences, so I applied for the KY FAME Teacher Externship Program because I wanted to explore the connection between language learning and manufacturing careers.
The primary purpose of the Teacher Externship Program is to provide teachers with exposure to manufacturing careers so they can take the information back into the classroom through course content and career exploration activities. In turn, students learn more about the need for skilled workers in manufacturing and might be inspired to apply for the KY FAME AMT program as they choose post-secondary education options. While educators from all subjects and grades are selected to participate in the teacher externship experience, the primary focus is on core content areas (especially math and science) at the middle and high school levels.
Participation in the teacher program includes three components: small groups of educators participate in week-long summer externships at various local manufacturers to learn more about jobs; teachers attend follow-up professional development sessions to design and critique content lessons about manufacturing for use in the classroom; and each teacher implements these lessons in their own classrooms during the following school year.
Although I felt a bit out of place among algebra and chemistry teachers in my cadre, I soon found a way to connect my world language content to the experience during my externship. During that week, my teacher group was partnered with SAFRAN, a worldwide leader in aerospace technology headquartered in France, but with a manufacturing facility in Kenton County. We learned about aerospace braking systems by touring the facility and talking with employees about their jobs, and we participated in meeting with their management team about academic and employability skills they desired in potential workers.
I was particularly interested in exploring careers within the company which required French language skills, so I met with French employees at the facility, managers who used French on a daily basis in their jobs and even workers who had the opportunity to travel to France to teach their skills to workers at other sites.
At the end of the week, all teacher groups met together to share their experiences with the various manufacturers and to learn more about the types of manufacturing jobs available in the region. During these presentations, I learned that many northern Kentucky manufacturers who participate in KY FAME are global companies with headquarters in Germany, Italy and France. Opportunities abound for world language students to use their skills in future careers, and employers are actively searching for qualified employees with language and manufacturing skills.
After completing the externship week in early summer, I met again with my fellow participants to design classroom lessons about manufacturing. As a world language teacher, I wanted my focus to be about connecting language learning to manufacturing careers and global citizenship. One of my assignments explored SAFRAN and vocabulary related to products they manufacture, a second lesson allowed students to learn about careers with the company, and in a third activity, guest speakers from SAFRAN talked with students about cultural differences between American and French business practices. My students are intrigued to learn that there is a French connection in our county, and they are also quite curious to know more about manufacturing careers.
Although I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began this journey with the KY FAME Teacher Externship Program, I am so glad I decided to apply. I learned that the content I teach has a direct connection to my region’s economy. I also discovered professional colleagues in all content areas who had a passion for helping students learn about the global career of manufacturing.
But more importantly, my students are benefitting from my participation in KY FAME. They now know that learning a language – particularly French – can be useful to them as they explore in-demand manufacturing jobs in our region. Students see that there is indeed a connection between what they are studying in the world language classroom and how it could apply to their careers and to their lives. They have opportunities to communicate authentically with French speakers about cultural differences, thereby expanding their roles as global citizens.
Before my participation in KY FAME, I never would have considered manufacturing education as part of my world language classroom content; now I can’t fathom not sharing information about this global industry with my students and my colleagues. If you are interested in learning more about KY FAME, the student AMT program or their teacher externship opportunities, visit the KY FAME website.
I encourage you to consider applying for the summer Teacher Externship Program. The experience will definitely change your understanding about manufacturing and Kentucky’s global economy.
Addison Welp is a French teacher at Simon Kenton High School (Kenton County).