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AMP sees first class of graduates

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
The first class of the region's advanced manufacturing program have graduated and are now in the workforce. The program, which was launched several years ago, encourages students to follow career paths in local manufacturing fields.

For the past several years, The Denison Development Alliance and other economic developers have worked on ways to encourage local growth in manufacturing workers. Now, in 2020, these efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

Area officials said that 2020 saw the graduation of the first class of the region’s Advanced Manufacturing Program. The program, which is one of several efforts to encourage manufacturing training, assists high school students in receiving dual credit courses toward future careers in industrial and manufacturing careers.

“Even during COVID, we’ve had some senior kids finish up last year and did their internships and graduated with everything they were supposed to receive under the AMP program,” DDA President Tony Kaai said.

The first graduating class for the program had for students, including two from Denison, one from Whitesboro and one from Pottsboro. In order to complete the three-year course, the students needed to complete 40 hours of dual credit coursework and receive two nationally-recognized certificates in advanced manufacturing. The students were also required to complete an internship over the summer.

For some of the recent graduates, the program has already led to employment, Kaai said.

“When I found this out, I was working with one of my local employers, Cruz Acosta, who has Texoma Insulation along with his partner at PTF Insulation Fabricators and they had a major construction contract,” he said, noting that the companies were working with the Choctaw Nation and Texoma Medical Center.

“They needed employees, and Cruz has been a major supporter for our industrial maintenance program that we had and has hosted many tours at PTF.”

Texoma Insulation interviewed three of the students and ultimately hired two to work on insulation installation at the work sites. A third was offered a job, but had already taken work elsewhere.

For Pottsboro’s Carley Bynum, the AMP program offered a career path that she originally did not intend to follow. Instead, she initially aimed at getting a business degree.

“It was recommended by a well-respected teacher of mine,” Bynum said. “ He just kind of said.I should try it out, and I decided to give it a shot.

“To be honest, I heard about the program and I wasn’t necessarily interested in the manufacturing world as a whole. I was somewhat interested in business at the time and thought it would be a good thing to fall back on. After going through the program, I ended up falling in love with manufacturing and wanted that to be my main career goal.”

Bynum said she currently still plans to attend college and get a business degree. However, she now plans to use it in her new dream of managing a manufacturing plant.

Lowellus Bowman was one of the two Denison graduates. Bowman said he got into the program upon recommendation of a welding teacher.

Bowman said his family was already well acquainted with manufacturing as his father has worked in the industry.

“My father was a welder and he always had welding jobs. He explained it to me and I enjoyed it. I thought I might be able to do that after high school and decided to try it.”

When the program first launched, Kaai and other economic developers described it as the latest effort in creating a pipeline for workers for area manufacturing amid expected shortfalls in workers in coming years as the baby boomer generation retires.

Despite the success with the program, and another 43 students in training, Kaai said the region still needs more training.

Upcoming efforts will focus on educating parents about the employment opportunities their children have. Previously Kaai said there are still misconceptions about modern manufacturing being a dirty, difficult and low-paying field.

“They are a testimony of a success story, and that is what this is all about,” he said. “But to have a success story from a family and then stories about how they got a job is the real success story.”

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.