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College Program Helps Alabama Students Find Meaning in Manufacturing

College Program Helps Alabama Students Find Meaning in Manufacturing

Published 04-19-24

Submitted by Eastman

A person pushing a button on a box on front of a large CNC type machine.


Eastman employee Porter Embry is grateful for the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) program at Gadsden State Community College in Alabama. It’s helped him find a fulfilling career.

Embry became a full-time warehouse operator in May 2023 at Eastman’s facility in Anniston, Alabama. He got his start with Eastman two years earlier, when he began part-time work while studying toward a technical associate degree at Gadsden State.

The FAME program offers real, hands-on learning to students while developing a pipeline of local, talented team members who will contribute to the success of Eastman and the Anniston community.

Family inspires interest in FAME

Embry played football and baseball throughout high school but wasn’t sure if sports would secure his future. His stepfather spent 25 years in manufacturing and gave him insight into the field, which inspired Embry to pursue a technical degree.

He began the FAME program in fall 2021. It connected Embry with Eastman, one of 11 industry partners in east Alabama that employ FAME students. The wages he earned working three days a week, combined with scholarships and other assistance college administrators helped secure, gave him a debt-free education on top of a landing a full-time job after graduation.

“There’s a bright future in manufacturing and automation,” he said. “Employees in this field will be retiring from these positions in the future, and behind them are young people my age. I learned welding, motor controls, electrical technology, pumps and piping. I don’t think kids understand the value of having these skills.”

Eastman specialist hails program as “life changing”

Eastman has been helping FAME students since becoming an industry partner in 2019, according to Kenny Duncan, a site compliance specialist in Anniston. Businesses select one or more FAME students each year in a lottery-style system. Selections are made after two days of interviews.

“They put a lot of effort into this. It’s for a job, a chance at an education,” Duncan said. “I view the FAME program as life changing. A lot of students don’t have the option of attending four-year universities. We are helping them develop a career.”

Embry agrees. He also credits the program with helping him develop his work ethic. He learned about piping, mechanics and other practical skills in the classroom one day and put them to use the next.

Embry said his mentorships helped him navigate his new role at the Anniston site.

“The guys in maintenance took me in like I was one of their own,” Embry said. “They wanted to teach me something new every day. They didn’t look at me any differently than any other employee.”

He considers FAME to be the road map to the rest of his life.

“I didn’t always have the same mindset I have now,” he said. “Being around guys who have been in the field for 20-plus years, learning from them, it was a big help.”

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Founded in 1920, Eastman is a global specialty materials company that produces a broad range of products found in items people use every day. With the purpose of enhancing the quality of life in a material way, Eastman works with customers to deliver innovative products and solutions while maintaining a commitment to safety and sustainability. The company’s innovation-driven growth model takes advantage of world-class technology platforms, deep customer engagement, and differentiated application development to grow its leading positions in attractive end markets such as transportation, building and construction, and consumables. As a globally inclusive and diverse company, Eastman employs approximately 14,000 people around the world and serves customers in more than 100 countries. The company had 2023 revenue of approximately $9.2 billion and is headquartered in Kingsport, Tennessee, USA.

About Eastman in the circular economy: In 2019, Eastman became the first company to begin commercial-scale chemical recycling for a broad set of waste plastics that would otherwise be landfilled or, worse, wind up in the environment. Eastman's molecular recycling technologies can process waste plastics traditional mechanical recycling methods cannot—including polyesters, polypropylene, polyethylene, and polystyrene—derived from a variety of sources, including single-use plastics, textiles, and carpet. These technologies provide a true circular solution of endless recycling for materials, allowing them to be reused repeatedly.

To learn more about how we’re working to make a more circular economy visit

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