by Mitchell Kirk
A collaboration of local businesses, organizations and educational institutions have joined a statewide initiative to recruit and prepare the area’s workforce for manufacturing jobs.
The initiative, called Advancing Manufacturing, combines the efforts of Ivy Tech’s Corporate College, the Cass Logansport Economic Development Organization and the Region 4 Workforce Board of Lafayette-based WorkOne, a workforce development organization, among others.
Those involved with the program say its goals are to both aid manufacturers by developing a qualified workforce and assist potential employees by helping companies provide the jobs they seek.
One of the ways they plan to accomplish this goal is through the Ivy Tech Corporate College’s certified production technician program. The program consists of 140 contact hours of textbook work, lectures and exercises through interactive computer training modules in the areas of safety, manufacturing processes and maintenance awareness, among others.
“It’s a very, very good program,” said Jeremy Pattee, an instructor with Ivy Tech’s certified production technician program. “There’s a lot of information that we cover that helps make for a well-rounded employee.”
David Williams, co-owner and vice president of Co-Tronics, Inc., a plastic injection molding company in Logansport, said he felt the program would better prepare his company’s future employees after he attended a session on the initiative and observed one of Pattee’s classes.
“We struggle to find good, qualified people,” Williams said. “It’s refreshing to find something like this in the community.”
“Folks around here that have skills, most of them have jobs,” said Mike Federspill, an account executive with Ivy Tech’s Corporate College. “That eight to 10 percent that don’t have jobs, most of those folks don’t have the skills that are necessary to work in a manufacturing environment.”
Ken Parry, also an account executive with Ivy Tech’s Corporate College, said the area’s manufacturing industry has a healthy outlook and is in need of qualified employees.
“For years, people have been hearing, ‘Don’t go into manufacturing,’” Parry said. “It’s alive and well in Indiana, specifically in Cass County and people don’t know that there are good paying jobs available in manufacturing.”
There are currently 34 businesses in the partnership in 12 counties, including Federal-Mogul in Logansport. Since the Advancing Manufacturing initiative began in Lafayette in 2012, the partnership has helped more than 100 people graduate from a certified production technician program with more than $400,000 in scholarship money.
WorkOne contributes to the initiative by recruiting members of certified production technician programs across the state through providing drug screenings, hosting résumé and interviewing workshops and awarding scholarships.
“Manufacturing is not just your grandfathers’ foundry,” said Kara Webb, a team leader of Business and Employer Services at WorkOne. “Advanced skills are required for today’s manufacturing.”
Webb said 69 percent of certified production technician program graduates find work after completing the program to date.
“A lot of folks seem to think they want to wait for that one, coveted employer,” she said, “so we have a little bit of a struggle getting them to move along and not wait for that particular employer. We’re working on that to better our percentage.”
For $2,000 a year, businesses that join the initiative will be assisted by WorkOne when seeking qualified employees. The payment also includes advertising opportunities within the program. Additionally, businesses have the option of contributing $1,300 a year that will go toward funding additional scholarships for certified production technician programs.
Connie Neininger, president of the Cass Logansport Economic Development Organization, said CLEDO will be contributing money to recruits looking to go through the certified production technician program as well.
She said there are plans to hold collaborative networking sessions every quarter that will include other industries along with manufacturing, like retail and service.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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