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New program designed to enhance manufacturing sector, skilled workforce

A new initiative through the Region Four Workforce Board aims at connecting manufacturers and skilled workers.

It’s called “Advancing Manufacturing: We Have Jobs Here, We Have Training Here.” Besides listing open positions at companies in Tippecanoe and surrounding counties, it offers free training for job seekers.

Region 4 CEO Roger Feldhaus says the effort is in response to employers who have expressed concerns about the quality of the current labor pool.

"They're not necessarily wanting to hire the same type of people with the same type of skills as they've hired in the past, prior to the recession. Processes have gotten a little more technologically sophisticated. The expectation of the workers that they bring on, I think, the standard has risen."

The website advancingmanufacturing.com lists openings with such companies as Caterpillar, Oscar Winski, and Wabash National. It also has details of the Certified Production Technician training program through Ivy Tech Corporate College.

The 8 week program provides basic manufacturing skills with flexible schedules and at different locations throughout the region. Feldhaus says the training is free for those in Tippecanoe and adjacent counties.

"Some of the funds will come from the Region 4 Workforce Board. Some of the money comes from Ivy Tech Community College through a grant it received for such training opportunities. So, we have the money available to address this community and regional priority."

He thinks once manufacturers see how valuable the service is to them, they could fund some of it.

David Kummer is human resources manager with Nanshan America Advanced Aluminum Technologies, which is starting up in Tippecanoe County this year. He says those who go through the program have the dedication his company is looking for in a new hire.

"So, candidates who come to us, who already have those types of skills - they understand a manufacturing environment - those candidates will have one step up on those folks who apply and don't have those types of things."

Kummer says Nanshen is currently hiring for tooling, maintenance, and extrusion technicians. The pay for the three positions range from $14-25 dollars an hour.