ASHLAND, Ky. — Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard took 45 minutes on Wednesday morning to encourage and enlighten potential future employees of the Braidy Atlas aluminum rolling mill.

More than 110 students in the Advanced Integrated Technology program at Ashland Community & Technical College listened intently to Bouchard for 45 minutes. He told them 10,000 applications had been taken for the plant’s 600 jobs, calling it a “tough, tough environment.”

“Now for the good news,” Bouchard said. “Guess who’s at the front of that line? Everybody sitting in this room.”

The associate degree program was developed especially for Braidy and equips graduates for a manufacturing environment. Students are in the second semester of the program.

“If you can get the employee to understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, it will make for a much more successful plant,” said Mike Tackett, the coordinator for the Advanced Integrated Technology program.

The room was full of age diversity and included mostly men but also a few women for jobs that, in the past, was mostly directed to men.

“I tell ladies all the time, they need to look at the big picture,” Tackett said. “Men are getting into nursing and teaching. There’s no reason at all they can’t get into this. We have some good ones.”

Tackett said the company has put a successful program in motion by not only adding general education requirements but additional skills and value classes including Bible studies and interpersonal communication.

“What Braidy has asked us to do, I think they’re geniuses,” Tackett said.

Bouchard said whoever makes it through the program will have to work for it, but the rewards are potentially very big.

“If you work hard in here, if you do well, if you’re got sort of a really great team-playing attitude, if your strong as an individual and want to really succeed and do well and commit yourself to what you’re doing, you’ve got a good job here and a good future,” he said. “If you don’t fit into anything of those things, or if you’re stuck in the opioid crisis, or any of those negative things, then you don’t have a future with us.”

The 600 who do become workers at the plant will start around $65,000, the company has said.