MUSCLE SHOALS — Brice Townsend and Kirkland Danielowicz are taking advantage of what they consider an opportunity of a lifetime.

As members of the FAME (Federation of Manufacturing Education) program at Northwest-Shoals Community College, the two are getting their college education and on-the- job training experience at the same time.

The two are apprentices – Townsend at North American Lighting and Danielowicz at Forsythe and Long Engineering. Both say they're working towards careers in industrial maintenance and engineering, respectively.

"It was pretty intimidating at first but then we got the hang of it and settled into the schedule with school and work and it's a great way to prepare for a career," said Danielowicz.

The two were on hand Thursday at the Northwest-Shoals Community College FAME Program open house/networking event.

Company representatives from Freightcar America, Pilgrim's Pride, Mid-South Central Extrusion Die Company, Constellium, Essity and North American Lighting were on hand to speak with 12th-graders who are prospective FAME participants and their guidance counselors. 

Students from Colbert and Franklin counties participated Thursday, and a second session will be held March 3 for Lauderdale County students. That session will be open to the public in the evening.

Fifteen business sponsors are part of the FAME program, and officials say the program offers not only training opportunities, but good wages.

The students in the program attend classes two full days per week while working three full days with their sponsoring company. Over two years, students can earn as much as $33,500.

Liz Thomas, of North American Lighting, is the vice president of the FAME Shoals chapter.

She said the plant's first graduating class of three students in May will all go into full-time positions at a wage of $21 per hour and the chance for quick advancement and a raise.

"This is our future," Thomas said. "Through the program they get exposure to every department and there's a two-year guarantee after they graduate."

North American Lighting sponsors four students per year. 

Constellium, another major sponsor of the FAME program, is taking eight advanced manufacturing technicians through the program.

The deadline for participants to apply for the upcoming year is April 1. Applications may be made online at nwscc.edu/fame

Networking opportunities like Thursday's event are essential to the program by pairing prospective workers with companies. Most  companies pay in the $12-$16 range for apprenticeships. Many companies also offer overtime for those individuals.

Deshler High School senior Fernando Carrillo's interest is in robotics and he's hoping to expand his horizons by gaining experience in industrial systems technology.

"I've really gotten interested in this FAME program because I see the opportunity in it," he said. "Getting accepted into the program is the worry because I know it's going to be competitive but I just love what I've seen and learned about the program and I can see this as my future."

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