Feeding the Pipeline

TMMAL shares manufacturing workforce needs with career prep educators

June 06, 2017
Inside Look -- TMMAL’s Safety Manager Tom Cashin leads high school career prep teachers in team member training exercises.

When 40 career prep teachers recently toured Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama (TMMAL), they were surprised by two things: how clean it was and how technologically advanced manufacturing processes have become.
Those two observations aren’t uncommon. Until they see it in action, many people don’t realize that manufacturing plants rely heavily on skilled engineering and maintenance talent.
TMMAL, located in Huntsville, Alabama, manufactures 4-cylinders for Camry, Highlander and RAV4; V6 engines for Highlander and Tacoma; and V8 engines for Sequoia and Tundra. Finding skilled talent there, and for manufacturers across the country, remains an ongoing challenge.
So when TMMAL was asked to participate in a local chamber of commerce teacher development program, it welcomed the opportunity.
“Workforce development and engaging with educators on how to best support them for building a pipeline is something we focus on in manufacturing,” says Kim Ogle, external affairs analyst at TMMAL. “It’s important for teachers to hear firsthand from the industry what we need and are expecting from employees so they can better align curriculum and programming to meet those needs.” 

Training Tools -- Mike Clark, TMMAL’s general manager of Manufacturing Support, gives teachers a firsthand look at the plant’s Global Production Center where team members are trained.

After a plant tour, the group met students enrolled in the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program and learned how the two-year program, which partners with community colleges, is helping Toyota build a pipeline for skilled maintenance technicians. They also visited the Global Production Center where team members are trained, followed by panel discussions to highlight careers in manufacturing and the education pathways to obtain those jobs.
“We were able to directly share information about the industry, types of manufacturing-related jobs and where the gaps are so teachers could take that information to their students,” Ogle says.
Knowing these resources are available is particularly valuable, since ninth-graders in Madison County school districts take a career prep class to learn about different industries, skillsets needed and available educational pathways.
The biggest takeaway of the day?
“There are so many entry points to working in manufacturing,” Ogle says. “Students have different strengths and skillsets, and there are co-ops, internships and training programs out there that people may not be aware of. We want to help increase awareness about careers in manufacturing and collaborating with teachers, parents and students is an effective way to accomplish that goal.”
By Karen Nielsen

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