Mollie Foerster wanted to become a librarian, but she faced a problem that many high school students do. The degree would be costly, and a librarian’s salary wouldn’t make up for it. Luckily, she found a great alternative: a manufacturing career, made possible by the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME), a cooperative learning program founded by Toyota and overseen by The Manufacturing Institute.
Today, Foerster says proudly, “With my degree, along with my onsite experience, I will always be able to find a job.”
Finding FAME: At her parents’ encouragement, Foerster enrolled in the Southern Indiana FAME chapter after high school. The program trains students of all ages and backgrounds, from recent high school graduates to experienced manufacturing employees looking to advance their careers. FAME students earn a two-year Associate’s Degree while working in their sponsor’s manufacturing facility as an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT). This was exactly what Foerster was looking for.
The benefits: Foerster’s favorite thing about the FAME AMT model was “the integration of school and work.” Working at a Toyota manufacturing plant part-time while also attending school prepared her well for the workforce, she says—much better than school alone would have. Some of the benefits included:
- Mentoring opportunities that paired her with experienced leaders who encouraged her to solve challenging problems and offered help when needed—“They allowed me to learn from my mistakes without actually making mistakes”;
- Fabrication instruction, which helped her improve her skills in a marketable area where she previously had no experience;
- Public speaking practice, which has made her “a better and more confident” presenter—something she’s sure will be helpful every day in her new career.
What’s next? Having graduated from the FAME program, Foerster plans to begin work full-time at Toyota. She also expects to start her bachelor’s degree online through Purdue’s partnership with Vincennes University.
Advice for future FAME students: “Try and absorb as much as you can in the next two years,” says Foerster. “Don’t just memorize the information you need to know for tests, do your best to actually understand everything you’re being taught. At work, take on as many projects as they will give you. Ask your mentor and other team members for help. As long as you work hard and continuously try to improve yourself, you will achieve great things.”