KCC KAMA manufacturing graduates show new skills at capstone training event

KAMA trainee family members, area employers, program funders and other community partners mingle and speak with the KAMA participants during a production run demonstration held during a meet-and-greet event at TNR Machine, Inc., in Dowling in July.

Editor’s note: The following article first appeared on page 26 of the Aug. 3, 2017, edition of the Battle Creek Shopper News. Click here to read the article in the online edition of the Shopper News.

It’s a damp Thursday in mid July, and outside the large pole buildings of Dowling’s TNR Machine, Inc., the graying skies threaten rain. There’s a different feel inside, where in one building the open, brightly lit white space plays host to a meet-and-greet capstone event for the latest cohort of Kellogg Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Assembly Training (KAMA) program.

KAMA trainee Alex Waters, 17, who graduated from Delton-Kellogg High School this past spring, sits at a horseshoe-shaped set of low tables with the other members of his cohort, attaching wheels onto a plastic base of as part of the assembly line for the group’s latest production demonstration of the morning. Most of the cohort will have a hand in the assembled piece before it’s done, when it will roughly resemble a car the group will later roll down a ramp to test the quality of its production.

“It’s been helping me a lot,” Waters says of the program, listing off several of the manufacturing processes the group has learned over the past few weeks. “It’s college credit and will help me in the future with manufacturing.”

Waters, who hopes to work in the manufacturing field, possibly as a machinist, is one of dozens of trainees to benefit from participation in the KAMA program, which has served nearly 20 cohorts since starting at KCC in 2014. In addition to giving participants experience on a working manufacturing line and teaching them various manufacturing skill sets and production concepts, the program also provides instruction in life and career skills including professionalism, business writing and teamwork.

The nine members of Waters cohort, the first based in Hastings, also earned their OSHA 10 certification, demonstrating their knowledge of workplace health and safety concepts. Today marks the end of their fifth week as KAMA trainees and is one of the final days of the program; on the final day, the group will meet with half a dozen manufacturing employers, coming with intentions to hire.

“It’s a really good program,” Waters says. “I think everybody should do it.”

Broadening horizons

Between production runs at the meet-and-greet, trainee parents and grandparents, area employers, program funders and other community partners mingle and speak with the KAMA participants. John Siuda, 20, a 2016 Thornapple Kellogg High School graduate, says he worked an assembly job right after high school but felt like the assignment was a dead end. He joined the KAMA program as a way to boost his resume and make him more versatile on the line.

“I jumped right in on the line and they didn’t really teach me any leadership skills specifically; it was get on the line, do your part and don’t fall behind,” Siuda says of his old job. “Here they tell you to broaden your aspect and work toward improving it and figuring out what’s going wrong. It really has broadened my horizons in the field.”

He says the program has also helped him get used to the interview environment so he’s more ready to speak with potential employers. The group completed several mock interviews with volunteers from the community and received feedback on how they could improve.

Siuda first heard about the program from his mother, Ann Siuda, who read about it in a local newspaper. Standing among the group watching as the KAMA trainees wrap up another production run, Ann Siuda says she thinks the program has helped John learn more about what’s expected of him in the manufacturing environment than he knew going into his first job, and she’d recommend the program to other parents looking for a way to provide their own kids some direction.

“It’s fantastic because sometimes they come out of high school without any direction as to what they want to do,” she says. “This gives them an option to explore.”

For more information about KCC’s KAMA program, visit www.kellogg.edu/work or contact Workforce Solutions Career Coordinator Casey Fairley at 269-565-2804 or fairleyc@kellogg.edu or Career Coach Roy Tooke at 269-565-7979 or tooker@kellogg.edu.

Pictured above, KAMA trainee family members, area employers, program funders and other community partners mingle and speak with the KAMA participants during a production run demonstration held during the meet-and-greet event at TNR Machine, Inc., in Dowling in July.

For more news about Kellogg Community College, view our latest press releases online at http://daily.kellogg.edu/category/news-releases.