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2014 December 19 - 05:31 am

Ivy Tech Program Helps Meet Manufacturing Needs

Program Pairs Classroom Learning with Internships, Apprenticeships

COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — Columbus is at the forefront of a program aimed at putting Indiana ahead of the curve in manufacturing growth.

Educators, company executives and students describe the Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology program through Ivy Tech Community College as a win-win proposition.

It was developed in concert with the Indiana Automotive Council.

The program pairs classroom learning and lab experience with internships or apprenticeships in an effort to both maximize student learning and outcomes and helps manufacturing companies that are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers.

Sue Smith, vice president for Ivy Tech’s technology division, said the program is modeled after what Germany and other European countries have been doing since World War II.

Those countries don’t face the same problems — vacant positions and few skilled people to fill those positions — that the United States does, she said.

Smith told The Republic (http://bit.ly/10RcIVY ) the program, implemented in January at Ivy Tech’s Columbus facility, is important for manufacturing growth, especially in Indiana and particularly in the region surrounding Columbus, where manufacturing has seen nearly 40 percent growth in jobs in less than five years as the country has come out of the recession.

“Industry has the jobs, and they don’t have the employees,” she said. “We have the equipment. We have the faculty. We have the programs.”

But she said they’re missing one crucial piece of the puzzle: more students who are interested in a career in manufacturing.

So Ivy Tech is creating partnerships with area companies, including Caltherm Corp. and Aisin USA, to attract and train students and help those companies retain workers trained with crucial manufacturing skills, she said. The program does that by showing students that the true outcomes of manufacturing jobs are far from what most people think.

Most people perceive a factory as being a dirty, dark sweatshop, Smith said. But the truth is that most factories probably are cleaner than the average home. They’re organized and well lit, she said.

And working in manufacturing no longer means just standing in an assembly line, she said.

“For the most part, it requires you to think, requires you to be on your toes,” she said, comparing the work to a video game. “It’s very different now than it was 20 years ago.”

Among other things that have changed is the size of a workers’ paycheck, she said.

While people often still associate manufacturing jobs with low pay, the industry now offers workers a “very good quality of life,” Smith said.

Steve Bardonner, dean of the school of technology at Ivy Tech in Columbus, said that’s led the college to educate people, starting with high school students and their parents and as early as elementary school, about the field of manufacturing and how it has evolved. By correcting such misconceptions, they hope to attract more students to the program.

The program has had positive outcomes for students, who get the chance to take classroom skills and put them directly to work while trying a job with a manufacturing company on for size.

Randall Lampkin, a Seymour resident who has been enrolled in the AART program since January, already has seen direct benefits.

The 29-year-old works at Aisin USA Manufacturing Inc. in Seymour. He said he has received about a 50 percent pay raise for going into the program and undergoing training for a maintenance position.

Because skilled trades positions are in demand, the AART program makes students wellrounded and puts them “leaps and bounds ahead of the competition,” Lampkin said.

“There’s a big demand for maintenance guys who can do it all. This gives us a competitive edge,” he said. “A lot of doors open for you if you go into a program like this, especially if you like getting your hands dirty.”

The program also benefits manufacturers such as Caltherm, which are trying to recruit new talent.

Kent Fuller, Caltherm’s director of human resources, said the program is helping to fulfill a huge need for skilled trades workers that continually is growing. The region is on pace to add 5,000 jobs in manufacturing by 2018.

“We’ve had really good success with the program, and we look forward to continuing that relationship with them going forward,” Fuller said.

He added that the program presents an ``exciting opportunity to see skilled trades begin to get back into the forefront and the foresight.’’ That opportunity can only benefit Indiana, Bardonner said. The growth generated from the program will help foster economic growth, he said.

Ivy Tech is “looking down the road and seeing how we want to grow as a community,” Smith said.

In order to grow, the state has to have a skilled workforce that can attract companies and promote that growth, she said.

The AART program creates a system of training that promotes that skilled workforce in a way that, if expanded and implemented, would be unique to the entire country.

“If we can figure this out in Indiana before the other states figure it out, it’s a tremendous economic development tool,” she said.

Information from: The Republic, http://www.therepublic.com/

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