by Daniel Lowry
Austin Blythe knew something was wrong. His dad never called him during
the middle of the day, and he could hear a crack in his dad’s voice.
“My dad is a very optimistic person,” says Austin. “But he was about to
break down on the phone.”
Austin was 18 years old at the time. His dad will always be a hero to
him, and to hear the pain his dad was feeling was a moment that Austin says changed
Austin’s dad told him that his employer was going to shut down both its
power plants in the area by the summer of 2018. Austin’s dad and many other people
were going to lose their jobs.
“He told me he wanted me to hear it from him before I heard it somewhere
Not only would his dad soon not have a job, he’d be competing against
other former co-workers.
“Seeing my family start to struggle made me know that I’ve got to step
up and do better. My parents didn’t have college degrees. I wanted to go to college,
and I didn’t want to go into debt. So I wanted to go the technical route.”
Austin had taken welding in high school and enjoyed it. He chose Maysville
Technical and Community College (MCTC) and got involved with a program that ties together
industry and education. It’s called KY FAME, which stands for Kentucky Federation
for Advanced Manufacturing Education.
“It was very easy to apply, and it ended up being a great choice for me,”
KY FAME allows students to go to class two days a week and work three days
for a company in their field. They can learn and earn money at the same time.
“I knew the day he walked through the doors of MCTC that he’d be successful,”
says Angie Potter, Austin’s KY FAME adviser.
KY FAME allowed Austin to get in touch with actual companies that needed
skilled workers. Because of the program, he was able to interview with about 10 different
Then came the offers. Three companies wanted him, and he was able to pick
the one he liked the best: The Walker Company, which does construction and is based
in Mt. Sterling.
“I have a great job now with a company I want to work for, and if something
happened, I could go anywhere else and have a great job.”
Austin is 19 years old now, set to graduate in May, and he is already
on a solid path to a secure future. One day, he says he may like to own his own company.
If so, he’ll be glad to help other students learn valuable skills while earning college
credit and a paycheck.
Even more than a job and an education, Austin has gained something else
that is extremely precious. He has confidence and hope.
He thinks about his dad and the power company that is shutting down.
“There’s not a lot of confidence for a lot of people right now,” he says.
“People in the unemployment line aren’t confident about their future.”
Ask Austin about his options and his future. He scratches behind his ear,
and then he smiles. It’s a broad, care-free smile.
“My options are endless,” he says. “It feels great. I’m going to graduate
debt-free and already have a job I love.”
Click here to learn more about KY FAME, or visit www.maysville.kctcs.edu.