When Kristy Willis moved to Louisiana, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next. Her 15-year marriage had ended in divorce, and she needed to find a way to support herself and her four children. She began by searching for a college where she could gain additional education and skills—and when she came across The Manufacturing Institute’s FAME program, she knew she had found the right place. In August 2019, she began her fresh start with GeauxFAME.
What it is: The Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME), which was founded by Toyota and is now operated by The Manufacturing Institute, is a career pathway program for current and aspiring manufacturing workers. It provides them with on-the-job training and classroom education, leading to an associate degree and an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) certificate.
A critical role: Willis viewed manufacturing as a vital part of the American economy, and was excited about the opportunity to feel connected to it.
- “When I came into this program, I didn’t know anything about the manufacturing business—but I wanted to be a part of it,” said Willis. “I saw manufacturing as adding strength to the economy in the United States. Wherever you go, manufacturing is needed, and I wanted to be a part of that industry.”
Personal and professional growth: Willis was wary about returning to school after 10 years, but she was motivated by the need to provide for her children. Ultimately, spending time in the FAME program has changed the way Willis sees herself and her opportunities.
- “The experience has been humbling,” said Willis. “But it has helped build my confidence in myself and given me something to look forward to.”
Of course, Willis had to contend with a particularly challenging year as COVID-19 made traditional learning environments impossible. Still, she found the program and her experience rewarding.
- “The past year has been crazy,” said Willis. “Being a mom of four kids, when they got sent home from school, and I got sent home from school, and everyone was trying to study at the same time—our house was wild. But we grew as a family during all of this, through all these trials.”
Next up: Willis will graduate in July, and her sponsoring employer, Boise Cascade—an Idaho-based wood product manufacturer with a facility in Lena, Louisiana—has already offered her a full-time job and the opportunity to continue her education and pursue her bachelor’s degree. She’s excited about the road ahead.
Good advice: Willis also encourages people who are looking for a new career to give the FAME program a try—even if they have never considered a career in manufacturing before.
- “This program is perfect for that mindset,” said Willis. “If you want to try it out and see how it works, it gives you that opportunity. You get a big picture of the manufacturing process, as well as insights behind standard operating procedures—why these safety practices are performed, or why those machines are serviced the way they are—and then it’s up to you to continue on through the program.”
The last word: “If you’re questioning what to do with your life, stay strong and have courage,” said Willis. “You are strong and smart enough—you take those trials that have brought you down in this life, and use them to make yourself stronger.”
Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
Washington, D.C. – National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement after the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded the 2016 Persuader Rule:
Manufacturers have fought for this victory for many years in the courts, in Congress and with two administrations, using the full weight of our policy, government relations and legal teams, said Timmons. The NAM’s Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action was able to halt the rule in court in 2016.And in 2017, the Trump administration, as part of its broader regulatory relief agenda, thankfully began the process of unwinding the rule. This overreaching rule threatened to impose serious burdens on manufacturers and upend employee–employer communications. Now manufacturers are relieved that this threat to workplace communications is finally and officially off the books. Commonsense steps like this to rein in onerous regulations are a major reason why manufacturers are reporting record-high business optimism.
The Manufacturers’ Center for Legal Action (MCLA) is the leading voice of manufacturers in the courts and engages in a range of activities, including direct party litigation and operating a robust amicus program, as well as educating manufacturers about emerging legal trends. The MCLA is led by NAM Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly and NAM Vice President of Litigation and Deputy General Counsel Peter Tolsdorf. More information on the MCLA can be found here.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 12 million men and women, contributes $2.25 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.