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NASCAR Driver Promotes Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program
Updated July 17, 2017 6:39 AM | Filed under: Education
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(VINCENNES) - NASCAR driver Garrett Smithley will promote advanced manufacturing education as he races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 22.

Speaking July 11 with participants at an Advanced Manufacturing Technician Academy at Vincennes University, Smithley said he has seen first-hand the difference AMT training has made in the life of his cousin. "He went through the AMT program, graduated debt-free with an associate degree, and works for Toyota in a lasting career that he enjoys. That's pretty crazy. Why don't we talk about that more?" Smithley said.

NASCAR driver promotes Advanced Manufacturing Technician program.jpg

NASCAR driver Garrett Smithley, right, operates a robot in the Vincennes University manufacturing lab with the assistance from VU student
Chris Downey, Winslow.

It is a message he also shared during a visit with VU students who will complete their two-year AMT training at VU in August.

Now in his rookie season, Smithley, 25, drives the number zero car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JD Motorsports. He will be among the racers at the Lilly Diabetes 250 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 22, the day after the VU Academy ends.

The AMT Academy at VU has attracted participants from New York, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana. It began July 10 and will run through July 21.

VU and the Indiana Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education, a collaboration of employers that work with educational institutions to support AMT training, are helping to sponsor Smithley's car in Indianapolis.

"As a racecar driver I believe I have a good platform in front of millions of fans week to week. There are over two million viewers on TV. Rather than just drive in circles, which is my passion, I think it can be so much more than that. My car in Indianapolis is going to say Indiana FAME. What a cool opportunity to help get this out there," Smithley said.

Beyond racing, Smithley said personal appearances, such as his visit to VU, would be an important part of promoting AMT. "Part of the value of this partnership is also bringing people to the race, even if they aren't big race fans - to be in the pits, to be watching the cars, to experience the sounds and smells, and then think about everything that goes into it. There is a lot in common between what AMT is doing and racing - it's engineering and building cars. It's just a big science experiment. Maybe some of your students will wind up working with a race team," Smthley said.

Tim Hedrick, supervisor of the AMT program at VU, agrees that Smithley's race team can help attract more interest among students about the opportunities available in pursuing AMT education.

"I'm optimistic about Indiana FAME sponsoring Smithley. It's going to be on television and students are going to see that and be curious about what FAME is all about. Our students at VU thought it was cool that Garrett visited with them. What a great spokesperson. I saw him speak at the FAME Conference in Kentucky where he spoke about why he is passionate about the AMT program," Hedrick said.

Currently 13 students will graduate from VU's AMT program in August. The incoming class in August will include 40 students, growth that Hedrick attributes to increasing support of area companies as well as more awareness of the opportunities for students.

"And the good news is that we are attracting top-level students, those at the top of their class, and it has become competitive to get into the program," Hedrick said.

With the support of five area companies, more students are becoming aware of the advantages of pursuing an AMT degree.

"First, you're going to have a job when you graduate and you're going to have great pay. Plus you're going to have career - not just a job - because our graduates have the skills that employers need," Hedrick said.

Students gain these skills in VU's newly renovated and expanded manufacturing lab and through hands-on experience in area manufacturing plants, where students are employed two days a week. Company sponsorship means students can graduate debt-free and will have developed strong relationships for immediate full-time employment upon completing the program.

"Anyplace there is manufacturing and automation there is a need for these graduates, and that is certainly true for major manufacturers in our area," Hedrick said. "We just can't have enough students to meet the demand of employers. I get calls every day seeking our graduates."

With the introduction of six new robots and an expanded manufacturing lab, Hedrick said VU has strengthened its position in AMT education.

"I believe we are one of the top colleges in technology education. We have great hands-on experiences, we have the new equipment, and we have a limit of two students per workbench. When employers hire one of our students they can hit the floor running," Hedrick said.

Toyota AMT Program

VU's Toyota AMT program includes a two-year degree in Advanced Manufacturing Automation Technology that combines cutting-edge curriculum and paid working experience along with learning highly sought-after business principles and best practices of a world-class manufacturer.

Students earn a wage while attending college and gain priceless work experience with a global manufacturing leader. Over two years, students can earn as much as $40,000 in salary which, with planning, can cover all of a student's education expenses.

For more information about the Toyota AMT program, contact Tim Hedrick at thedrick@vinu.edu or (812) 888-4421. Information is also available at www.vinu.edu/technology.



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