News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 25, 2013

Skilled workers wanted: Ivy Tech teams with industry on workforce needs

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley is on the front lines working with advanced manufacturers to help meet their workforce needs.

It offers certificates and degrees, shorter-term business/industry training through its Corporate College division as well as programs that reach out to K-12 students to interest them in advanced manufacturing opportunities.

The Wabash Valley region has an unemployment rate higher than the state average, and educational attainment levels below the state average, according to Ann Valentine, Ivy Tech-Wabash Valley chancellor.

“For a lot of people looking for jobs, they don’t have the skills that would help them be successful in an advanced manufacturing environment,” she said.

The workforce paradox here is that “employers [in advanced manufacturing] are desperate to hire people, and people are desperate for jobs,” she said.

 In response, Ivy Tech “has a whole family of things we’re doing, not just one program or one approach,” Valentine said.

The Corporate College division is working with a number of manufacturing companies in the Wabash Valley, said Lea Anne Crooks, executive director.

Two areas in particular where the companies need workers are maintenance technicians, both electrical and industrial, and production operators.

“A lot of companies are starting to develop maintenance technicians from within,” Crooks said. In one training program through Corporate College, half the tuition is funded through a Duke Energy grant and the other half by the companies.

Some companies fully fund the training.

“That’s a huge area,” Crooks said. When a machine goes down, a whole plant can shut down. “The maintenance technician is a critical person to get that machine up and running.”

Another Corporate College program trains certified production technicians, which is for entry-level workers. WorkOne funds are being used to train dislocated workers, both in Terre Haute and Greencastle.

According to Valentine, “There are immediate gaps for current workers. Corporate College can work directly with business to provide on-site education and training to bring existing workers up to speed.”

David Will, dean of Ivy Tech’s School of Technology, said the school provides certificates and degrees that “build on each other” for those able to pursue a more traditional education path.

For example, in machining, it offers an 18-hour certificate program, which can lead to a technical certificate of 31 to 33 credit hours. All of those hours would apply to an associate of applied science degree in industrial technology, with a machining concentration.

Programs have advisory boards with representation from industry; the boards meet two times a year to make sure they provide what industry needs.

Valentine said Ivy Tech is “very involved in dual credit.” Counselors and advisers visit schools to work with students taking dual credit, which provides both high school and college credit. “We want to help more students be aware of career opportunities and how dual credits can translate into a good careers through additional education,” she said.

The college also reaches out to middle and high school students through a variety of competitions and programs.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com