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INDIANAPOLIS — Manufacturing is Indiana's largest industry, yet it is facing a gap in skilled workers. The Indiana Manufacturers Association is combating this with a new program to ensure a pipeline of highly skilled workers to meet the needs of Indiana's manufacturing industry.
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana prides itself in automobile manufacturing. The company is also the leading example for a new program for college students interested in advanced manufacturing and engineering education.
It is a program Paula Rodriguez, a second-year student at Vincennes University, is already a part of at Toyota.
"I work with robots, Numatics, mechanics, and I think it is very important for me at least getting involved in technology because I am really interested in it," says Rodriguez.
Chris Melvin is the supervisor of the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program at Toyota in southern Indiana. Melvin works with students like Rodriguez.
"Our students are not learning a single specific trade, they are getting electrical, mechanical, robotics, programming, all those facets so they are a complete and total multi-skilled team member," says Melvin. "The way the program is structured, we are paying these students while they are working for us at a wage that is enough so they can pay for all their education as well. It's a great earn-and-learn program where students get practical experience and are still able to get their college paid for by the employers."
The Indiana Manufacturers Association is well aware of the widening gap in skilled workers needed for the industry. They are using Toyota as a model to implement this AMT learning program into companies across the state through INFAME, a two-year program to be done alongside receiving and paying for a college education. INFAME stands for the Indiana Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education.
"Lack of a skilled workforce is the number one contributing factor to whether or not if we will be able to grow and maintain our productivity in Indiana," explains Stephanie Wells, Vice President of Workforce Development at the IMA and the Executive Director of INFAME.
Since "workforce" is the industry's most critical issue, the IMA decided to take a leadership role in helping employers build a pipeline of trained talent.
"They will be learning a variety of technical skills and professional behaviors that will basically result in them being the best entry-level technician and talent which is a multi-disciplinary degree that we think is going to be, we know it is going to be even more critical as we, and I hate to use this term, as we enter Industry 4.0 and as our technology continues to advance in the manufacturing industry," states Wells.
INFAME is 100% employer funded through wages to students. It is the perfect program for the future engineers of the state, like Rodriguez, to be prepared to immediately enter the workforce upon graduation debt free and be placed in a high paying entry level position.
"The fact that we got to work to a specific sponsor and then we earn a wage, and we are able to use that money to pay our expenses at school," says Rodriguez. "This whole program gave me the opportunity to experience real life, what the workplace was going to look like, in the future for me and open up more opportunities for me to grow."
The Indiana Manufacturers Association is looking for employers through the state that are interested in partnering with the INFAME program. The IMA says they will help interested employers start up a chapter of INFAME, pick their higher education partners, and start them with a recruitment strategy.
For more information for employers and for how students can apply: https://www.indianafame.com/.