News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 17, 2012

Ivy Tech targets skill shortage

TERRE HAUTE — The Wabash Valley has what some describe as a “workforce paradox” — lingering high unemployment, yet manufacturers with jobs they cannot fill.

Ivy Tech, in cooperation with several other Wabash Valley partners, is working to address the paradox, said Ann Valentine, chancellor of Ivy Tech’s Wabash Valley Region.

She and Lea Anne Crooks, executive director of Ivy Tech’s Corporate College, discussed that effort during a regional trustee meeting Friday.

Not enough people in the existing adult workforce have the skills needed for these advanced manufacturing jobs, Valentine said. At the same time, “We’re having difficulty getting students to understand that manufacturing has a good future. These are clean, safe, good-paying jobs and secure well into the future,” she said.

Some have stereotypes that the jobs are “dirty and they don’t pay well. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Valentine said earlier in the week. Many of these jobs pay $55,000 or more, she said.

“A good, high-end welder can easily make $56,000 or $57,000,” she said. Other good-paying jobs include maintenance technicians, electrical technicians and machinists.

Ivy Tech and its partners have developed a five-year plan to address these manufacturing needs. Partners include the Wabash Valley Manufacturing Cluster, Workforce Network and Career-Technology Education directors.

The five-year plan, called REAAL 2018, will be used in part to seek funding from grant sources, which would be used to provide training and retraining for workers. REAAL stand for Raising Educational Attainment and Awareness Levels.

The plan focuses on addressing the skills gap of the adult workforce; ensuring a skilled future workforce for the region; and increasing awareness of and access to career opportunities.

One goal is to make sure the K-12 system has the equipment it needs to educate students on these career pathways, Crooks said. Another goal “is to change the overall perspective of manufacturing,” she said, which might include an academy for school guidance counselors so they better understand what advanced manufacturing is and the opportunities available.

Recently, officials announced a $47,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation that will help up to 30 workers under a job training program aimed at developing skilled manufacturing employees. “Pathways to Competitiveness” is a partnership of manufacturing firms, Ivy Tech the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s WorkOne offices.

The grant will be matched dollar for dollar from WorkOne. The training will target workers in Vigo, Clay, Parke, Sullivan, Vermillion and Putnam counties.

Crooks also talked about how the statewide Corporate College is evolving, and its president, Matt Bell, is taking it in a different direction. It’s a part of the college that is supposed to be profitable to help fund other college initiatives, but in the past, it has operated in the red statewide.

The Wabash Valley Region has “been up and down,” she said. It is currently in the black and “we are tracking well for now.”

The Corporate College is developing new services, and locally, it is trying to better understand and meet the needs of business and industry. For a fee, it provides workforce training from entry level through corporate level  positions in such areas as technical, supervisory/leadership and safety.

For more information about Corporate College, Crooks can be contacted at 812-298-2367 or lcrooks@ivytech.edu.

In other matters, Bruce Walkup, chairman of the Ivy Tech state board of trustees, said Ivy Tech officials met recently with David Long, president pro tem of the Indiana State Senate.

“He assures us [Ivy Tech statewide] we’ll get more funding to do more things next year, that we will be a high priority in the budget process. That will help us tremendously,” Walkup said.

“We’ve repeatedly stated we can’t do more with less. At some point, we’ll have to start limiting what we can do because we can’t fund it,” Walkup said. He said Long understands the issue “and believe things will be improved” with the next session of the General Assembly.

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

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