April 11, 2019 / Manufacturers are finding skills gap solutions with
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
“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
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
“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
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
Manufacturing is also a career with many opportunities for
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.”
Vincennes University Newsroom
MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports
812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell,
Communications Coordinator & Online Newsroom Manager
812-888-4162 office, 812-887-4635 cell, VUNews@vinu.edu,
VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University