PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The new FAME (Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education) program in Bay County is now recruiting students, connecting them with highly-skilled manufacturing jobs in the area.

The program was in the spotlight on Wednesday afternoon, as national manufacturing groups discussed the program and it’s work to inspire the next generation of skilled trade workers.

Local manufacturing companies, like Trane Technologies in Lynn Haven, were on the virtual information session talking about the program. 

“The talent pool that they create and develop is well-known,” said Trane’s Lynn Haven Plant Manager, Brad Van Haitsma. He said bringing the FAME program to Bay County was a no brainer, working alongside Trane HR Business Partner Susan Sterrett, Gulf Coast State College, and others to make it happen.

“We got together and decided this would be an awesome opportunity for all of the manufacturing in the area,” Sterrett said.

Now, multiple manufacturing companies like Trane, ACMT, Berg Pipe, Eastern Shipbuilding and others are all getting involved,  partnering with Gulf Coast State College to start the Bay County FAME chapter, with a goal in mind.

“Having FAME here in Bay County will help us create our own skilled maintenance technicians,” Sterrett said. 

She explained that it’s been difficult to find new skilled trade workers locally, and the program is working to encourage students to try the manufacturing career path through in-class learning and on-the job skills training. After the program, the majority of students who graduate end up with a highly-skilled job in the industry.

“You’re three days a week in school, two days a week on the job and after 21 months you’re coming out with your associates degree and the skill-set, and in 85 percent of the cases, a job,” said Carolyn Lee, the Executive Director for The Manufacturing Institute. 

One Kentucky chapter FAME student, Luis Vasquez, said the program has well-prepared him for skilled employment after graduation.

“I’ll already have on-site experience doing this job,” Vasquez said. “So it won’t be like going head-first into the shallow end of a pool.”

Sterrett said they’re excited to get it going in the community.

“This is just a perfect opportunity for us to employ people here in Bay County,” she said. “Give them awesome jobs, great career opportunities.”

For more information on the Gulf Coast FAME chapter, click here.

The deadline to apply for the program is March 31st, with the first group of students beginning classes in June.