Rising Star: Brad Copeland

Rising Star: Brad Copeland

NAME: Brad Copeland

SCHOOL: West Kentucky Community & Technical College

AREA OF STUDY: Industrial Maintenance

EMPLOYER: Vanderbilt Chemicals

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Earned an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in 2020


When Brad Copeland was 24, he began working as a chemical operator in 2011 at Vanderbilt Chemicals in Murray, Ky. He worked the swing rotation for seven years and liked what he was doing at the mineral and chemical products supply company. 

When a position opened in the maintenance department that would offer the opportunity to work the day shift and learn a new skillset, he bid on it and needed to go back to school to gain the knowledge he needed to be a good fit for the job.   

In the summer 2018, Copeland enrolled in West Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Kentucky Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education program (KY FAME), the perfect fit for the training he needed. The apprentice-style training program partners with regional manufacturers to prepare WKCTC students to become highly skilled workers and to meet the needs of employers.   

KY FAME companies such as Vanderbilt Chemicals sponsors students, who work three days a week with the organization and attend classes at WKCTC two days a week. The students learn essential skills in the classroom and apply those skills in the workforce.   

While in the classroom at WKCTC, Copeland studied about programmable logic controllers and robotics, skills that he used daily during his time at Vanderbilt Chemicals, where he was already working in the maintenance job the program was training him to fill.

“On the days that I went to school, I learned the foundation and then I’d apply it on the job. So, it (school and work) went hand-in-hand together,” he said. “I could actually catch on faster because I learned it, and then as quickly as sometimes the next day, I was using what I learned. Or I’d seen it out here (on the job) already, and then I’d learn about it in the next week or so, and it was easier for me to pick up on because I’d already seen it on the job.”  

October is Manufacturing Month and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) that is proud to train thousands of Kentuckians for manufacturing jobs.

In fact, KCTCS is the primary provider of manufacturing training in Kentucky. KCTCS has more than 400 advanced manufacturing partners statewide. The 16 colleges align their programs with local business needs, which prepares KCTCS students to walk out of college and into a good paying career. 

The system also has more than 200 business partners who offer work and learn experiences through the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME.)

KCTCS also maintains a partnership with the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM), which has served as the leading advocate for manufacturers for the last 100 years. According to KAM, more than 250,000 people are employed by Kentucky manufacturers and there are 4,500 manufacturing facilities in the state.

Throughout October, KAM will honor a student or graduate from each of the 16 KCTCS colleges. Copeland is the graduate KAM will recognize from WKCTC.

A May 2020 WKCTC graduate with an associate degree in industrial maintenance, Copeland, now 35, is currently an electrical and instrument technician at Vanderbilt Chemicals, having reached his goal of working in a new area at the company and working the day shift. 

“It’s a better job more suited to my personality. I like to fix things anyway. I have a family, smaller children, so it works better for me,” said Copeland. “Richard Davis, vice president of Vanderbilt Chemicals, LLC and Jonathan Baker, the KY FAME program coordinator at the college, were instrumental in helping me achieve my goals and improve my life.”  

For more information about KY FAME or Advanced manufacturing education, contact 270-554-9200. 


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