A Somerset Community College student is one of 16 KCTCS (Kentucky Community and Technical College System) students recognized as a KAM (Kentucky Association of Manufacturers) Rising Star.
Each of the designated Rising Star students exemplifies the importance of education in the skilled trades and the long-term success and opportunities these industries can offer Kentuckians.
Industrial Maintenance student Terry Scruggs is the Rising Star for Somerset Community College. While earning the degree at SCC is Scruggs' immediate goal, his future plans are a whole lot higher … and a whole lot faster.
"I'd like to work for a company called Boom," he says. The new business is building "a supersonic airplane … a commercial airplane that goes like 1,700 miles per hour. It's coming and that's like the next step as far technology as airlines go and, for me, it's like 'Man, I would love to be a part of that.'"
Scruggs, a 39-year-old Berea resident, says the instruction he is now receiving at SCC is providing him with the foundation he needs to become an engineer and achieve his high-flying goal.
He is one of several people from industry taking part in the college's KY FAME Advanced Manufacturing Technician program that combines college coursework with paid, on-the-job training and experience, as well as personal behavior and core manufacturing skills. The five-semester educational program allows those already employed in the industry to attend classes two days a week while continuing to work. Successful students earn an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree in Industrial Maintenance Technology - Advanced Manufacturing Technician Track.
"The thing I like the most about it (the program) are all the challenges they put on you as far as scholastic-type challenges because you're learning something new every day and then they're training you on it and they train you incredibly well," he says. "I like it because it's very personal (and) because I'm not a new student, I'm an old student compared to these young guys and they tease me about it."
Scruggs was on the line as a temporary employee at Toyotetsu America, Inc. (TTAI) in Somerset when fellow worker Richard Snowden encouraged him to apply for the program. Another TTAI employee, Shenoa Merritt, also promoted the training.
"I brushed it off when I first met them," Scruggs said, "but they were kind of adamant about it."
Both had recognized the worker's interest in engineering at the factory.
"I have picked up things I learned from working with maintenance guys," he said. "They would always pull me off of the line to help them figure out a problem because I enjoyed it and they liked working with me."
Since applying for and being accepted into the SCC program, Scruggs has lost his sponsorship from the company but a portion of his education is being paid through Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding.
The instruction is split between classroom and hands-on training.
"The hands-on is incredible," he said. "The instructors I've had every semester are great. (They) never get tired of my questions and I appreciate that."
SCC's program is doing "a good job teaching and things that maybe I don't have all the time to get into detail right now, I've got enough of a background and then I'm saving it so I can go back over it later, once I graduate," he said. "That's what I really appreciate to because it's stuff that I can go back over again as far as notes and videos."
Scruggs gave special praise to instructor Chris Bell, advisor Karen Plagge and SCC's Vice President of Workforce Solutions Alesa Johnson. "They've been fantastic," he said. "I couldn't ask for better people as far as recruiting and then making sure that you're on task and that you're focused on your career."
After he receives his AAS degree next May, Scruggs plans to transfer to Eastern Kentucky University and pursue a four-year degree. From there, he hopes to gain additional working experience--possibly at Toyota in Georgetown, KY-- where he can "hone my skills and apply what I've learned in school." It's with this experience that he hopes to have the foundation needed to enter the supersonic commercial airline field as an engineer.
As for taking his first steps toward this goal through SCC's KY FAME Advanced Manufacturing Technician program, Scruggs says, "I would highly recommend it."
"We are so appreciative of our partnership with KAM and all of our manufacturing partners across the Commonwealth," KCTCS Chancellor Kris Williams said. "We're extremely proud of our KAM Rising Stars from each of the 16 colleges. We invite manufacturers who need skilled workers to talk with us about the many ways they can work with our colleges to help prepare more Kentuckians for the workforce."
"We are proud to partner with KCTCS to recognize these hardworking students along with the colleges that provide them with the tools they need to succeed in skilled trade careers," said Lee Lingo, Executive Director of KAM. "We'd like to offer our congratulations to the first-ever Rising Star recipients and we look forward to watching them grow in their careers."
Due to COVID-19 KAM was unable to host an awards ceremony but students will receive hand-delivered awards from Lingo. The Rising Star awards will be given on an annual basis each October to celebrate Manufacturing Month and the future of the manufacturing workforce.