(HUNTSVILLE, Ala.) – Jeffrey Neill, a Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama skilled maintenance team member, was honored in a ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC on Friday, May 22.
Neill is one of 20 people in a group of graduates who was recognized, ranging from kindergarten through adult education programs. The event is symbolic for all those who missed graduation ceremonies across the United States due to COVID-19. Neill is a resident of Cornersville, TN.
Neill, 46, recently completed the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program offered through Toyota and Calhoun Community College. Even though he has worked at Toyota’s engine manufacturing facility in Huntsville since 2006, he decided at age 44 to further his education, and career, in the high-demand field of skilled maintenance. The graduation ceremony in early May was cancelled, and in the ceremony at the White House, Neill represented graduates working in the trades.
“In two short years, I have been able to continue working while earning an Industrial Maintenance degree that will put me on a path forward for growth at Toyota and set an example for my daughter that it’s never too late to follow your dreams,” said Neill. “As an adult learner, I encourage anyone who has the desire to pursue education or career advancement to believe in yourself and take the step forward. I am living proof that it is possible, and grateful that Toyota gave me, and many others, this opportunity.”
Ivanka Trump visited Alabama Robotics Technology Park in Decatur on September 10, 2019 to learn about the ways Alabama is finding solutions to the nation’s shortage of skilled workers. She met several students during her tour, including Neill, who talked with her about his experience in the Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education collaborative, or FAME. Toyota is one of more than a dozen area companies that participate in the FAME collaborative, launching the AMT program under its umbrella alongside Calhoun in 2014.
“We are extremely proud of our AMT program graduates and excited for Jeffrey to have this once in a lifetime opportunity,” said David Finch, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama. “He is a perfect example to others that it is never too late to pursue education and career advancement.”
“The quality of the program and what Calhoun delivers is remarkable — we have such high-quality students,” said John Holley, Dean for Technologies at Calhoun Community College. “It’s not surprising that we’ve had one of our students to be invited and honored in this way. There are opportunities every day in collaborative, work-based programs such as AMT for any students who might be interested.”
Alabama’s workforce development agency, AIDT, houses the AMT program at its Robotics Technology Park near Calhoun’s campus and oversees workforce and training opportunities throughout Alabama.
“AIDT was honored when approached by the companies of FAME in North Alabama to partner with Calhoun Community College to help get this program moving in the direction that Dennis Parker, Toyota’s lead developer of the program, envisioned it moving to support all local industries,” said Kristi Bain, Assistant Director of AIDT. “We have enjoyed working with all industry partners as this program has grown and positively affected so many individuals in meeting Alabama’s workforce needs.”
Alabama’s FAME collaborative is part of the national FAME program that Toyota transitioned to the Manufacturing Institute last year in efforts to further expand AMT throughout the U.S. The two-year Associate degree of Industrial Maintenance provides students the opportunity to earn a wage while attending college and gain the work experience needed to graduate job ready. The 2021-2022 application window will open later this year at calhoun.edu.