While signing ceremonies for student athletes aren't uncommon, West Kentucky Community & Technical College's Skilled Craft Training Center held a different kind of signing ceremony Friday.

Three graduates from the Kentucky Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) program publicly signed agreements to work for the companies that sponsored their education at the Going Pro Signing Day.

KY FAME is a five-semester program in which students spend 16 hours in class a week and at least 24 hours a week on a job site, receiving advanced training and earning a paycheck. Companies often pay some or all of a student's cost, and the students graduate with an associate's degree in advanced manufacturing and often a job offer with the company, according to Jonathan Baker, the program's instructor.

"They have education and experience at the same time," he said.

WKCTC began offering the program in fall 2016, and this spring's graduates are the second group to graduate, Baker said. Although there were five graduates this spring, signing agreements Friday were Lucas Andrew Pannell of Mayfield, signing with Progress Rail in Mayfield, Calvin Joe Shelton of Fulton signing with Kayser Automotive Systems of Fulton and Dalton James Leach of Benton signing with Briggs and Stratton in Murray.

Richard Davis, Vanderbilt Chemical plant manager and KY FAME chapter president, said the program is one that appeals to companies looking for a specially trained workforce with employees who have already demonstrated their ability and work ethic.

"A lot of it is automation and machinery," Davis said. "We need a lot of people who can repair those machines and run them."

Leach said the program appeals to students who want to complete a higher education degree and advance within their career fields. Without the program and his sponsoring company, Leach said, "College might have been an unreachable goal."

Shelton said the training through KY FAME helps him at work.

"I can explain problems better now than before," he said. Sometimes, he added, "I can fix the problems rather than have someone fix them for me."

WKCTC President Dr. Anton Reece said he hopes the signing day will encourage more employers to participate in KY FAME. He called it "one powerful way to address the skills gap and certainly to address the shortage of skilled workers in the western Kentucky area."

For more information about WKCTC's KY FAME program, visit https://westkentucky.kctcs.edu/education-training/kyfame/index.aspx.