Alicia Whitt never considered a career in manufacturing. After she graduated high school, the single mother began attending community college while working part-time at a fast food franchise.
Realizing that her options were limited regarding jobs in the area and wanting to remain close to family, she researched the Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program and learned about the industry/education collaboration between Georgia-Pacific Crossett, Canfor Southern Pine in Urbana and El Dorado, and the University of Arkansas Monticello College of Technology-Crossett (UAM-CTC). The program, a combination of education and on-the-job industrial training, provided Whitt a unique opportunity.
“As a single mom raising a beautiful daughter, I am convinced I will have a great career when I graduate” said Whitt, who is a current participant in FAME.
“I am earning a good wage and learning on-the-job skills in every department of Georgia-Pacific, and I love working with the employees and learning what is important in every area of the mill.”
Through the program, students earn a salary that advances in pay each year while also ultimately earning an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in Advanced Manufacturing Technology.
“This program was developed to grow our own workforce, providing students with both the opportunity to earn a degree while also giving them the chance to learn the hands-on skills in the hopes that they will become our future full-time employees,” said Mike Hohnadel, vice president of manufacturing for GP Crossett paper operations. “Manufacturing has changed rapidly in the past decade, fueled by an increase in technology. This has greatly increased our efficiency but also led to a change in the employee skills that we require.”
The program began in 2016, and Canfor joined the effort in 2017, fueled by the enthusiasm of Julie Roberson, Canfor’s human resources manager.
“Finding and keeping the right employees with the skills and work ethic required for remaining competitive is becoming critical, and Canfor is willing to invest in progressive measures to address that looming problem,” Roberson said.
Part of the program’s success is the mutually beneficial relationship between the companies and UAM-CTC. The program develops the needed technical, core manufacturing and employability skills.