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Manufacturers are finding skills gap solutions with Vincennes University

April 11, 2019 / Manufacturers are finding skills gap solutions with Vincennes University
Part 2 of a multi-part series

VINCENNES, Ind. - There are more than 14,900 available advanced manufacturing jobs in Indiana, according to the state’s Next Level Jobs initiative website and many of those are technical positions that require postsecondary training and education. Manufacturers have an excess of jobs and not enough highly trained and skilled Hoosiers to fill them. There’s a gap between what employers need and what employees can do.

Enter Vincennes University.

VU has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s best advanced manufacturing schools. Toyota, Subaru, Caterpillar Inc., North American Lighting, Jasper Engines, and Kimball International are among more than 20 manufacturing partners that have joined VU in developing greatly needed technical talent through work-and-learn partnerships.

Retiring baby boomers have impacted the number of available jobs.

In his January 2018 State of the State address, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said 85,000 jobs were unfilled in Indiana because employers were unable to find employees with the right skills.

VU is an innovator in helping manufacturers solve their workforce shortages with work-based learning partnerships.

North American Lighting, based in Paris, Illinois, is expanding in Elberfeld, Indiana. Facing a scarcity of workers, the company turned to VU for a vital solution.

“We’ve got a tool and die facility in Elberfeld, Indiana. We’ve got a major expansion coming up and with that major expansion is going to come a need for that skilled tool and die trade,” North America Lighting Corporate Trainer Robert Woolum said.

North American Lighting is the leading automotive lighting manufacturer in North America. It plans to double the size of its Elberfeld facility.

“To be able to fill that pipeline, we partner with VU with their MIP [Machining Internship program]…to get those employees that we are going to need,” Woolum added.

“Indiana is great at growing corn in the fertile fields around, but those cornfields don’t produce tool and die [workers]. We felt we needed to grow our own. We took a couple of individuals who worked for us as high school co-ops at our Elberfeld tooling facility, then brought them on to VU with their MIP program. They are getting a lot of hands-on experience.

The MIP partnership includes Subaru, Flying S, Berry Global, North American Lighting, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana.

“We’re happy to be on board,” Woolum said. “We have a lot of growth ahead of us. We will to continue to work toward that. We appreciate Vincennes University being a partner in that.”

Around 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed between 2018 and 2028, and an estimated 2.4 million positions are expected to go unfilled, according to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.

The same 2018 study cited that manufacturers want employees who possess digital skills, technology and computer skills, and programming skills for robots and automation, and have the ability to work with tools and technique and are critical thinkers.

VU partners with many companies to produce so-called middle-skilled advanced manufacturing technicians to accommodate the high demand.

Toyota’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program, the Advanced Internship in Manufacturing (AIM) program in the Lafayette region, and the Career Advancement Partnership (CAP) program in Jasper are helping bridge the skills gap.

Toyota has turned to VU for help in meeting their need for highly-trained technicians.

“We feel VU has been a great partner to train not only our upcoming workforce, but even some of our existing workforce,” said Chris Melvin, Human Resources Organizational Developmental Skilled Group Leader for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana.

The AMT program is a partnership between VU and the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) partners: Berry Global, Hershey, Flair Molded Plastics, Farbest Foods Inc., Metal Technologies, Presta North America, Toyota Indiana, Toyota Boshoku Indiana, and Toyota Boshoku Illinois LLC.

Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Caterpillar Inc., Rotec, Heartland Automotive LLC, Nanshan, BraunAbility, ARaymond, Closure Systems International, and Evonik are among the manufacturing partners actively involved in the AIM program.

The CAP program is a collaboration between VU Jasper and several manufacturing companies. CAP industry partners include Indiana Furniture Industries, Jasper Engines and Transmissions, Kimball Electronics, Kimball International, MasterBrand Cabinets, and Farbest Foods Inc.

The Vincennes University campus at Jasper has also launched a new academy for high school students in partnership with Dubois County Schools and the Patoka Valley Career Cooperative. The Automation and Robotics Academy (ARA) will provide students with paid internships as they work toward obtaining high school and college credit which stacks directly into a certificate in industrial technology.

A career as a technician in advanced manufacturing pays well. Starting wages for VU graduates in robotics and industrial maintenance are typically around $40,000 annually and there is potential to earn much more.


Manufacturing is also a career with many opportunities for potential advancement.

VU has proven effective in attracting high caliber individuals to train and in developing a pipeline of advanced manufacturing technical talent that will become the future workforce the industry needs.

“We partner with VU on multiple programs - not just the AMT program - to meet the very high needs we have for skilled workers right now,” Melvin said. “Without that partnership with VU, it would definitely feel like an impossible task to fill our skills gap right now.”

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Vincennes University Newsroom

MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports Information Director
   812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell, VUNews@vinu.edu, mmartinez@vinu.edu
VICKIE PUFFER, Communications Coordinator & Online Newsroom Manager
   812-888-4162 office, 812-887-4635 cell, VUNews@vinu.edu, vpuffer@vinu.edu
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations, www.vinu.edu/newsroom

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