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Hiring Hoosiers: Manufacturers create aim to encourage next generation of skilled workers

Student INFAME participants learning in classrooms and at local manufacturing companies
Posted at 1:04 AM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 21:26:40-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Even in a global pandemic, manufacturing jobs are still in high demand and local companies are putting their heads together to create pathways into this field.

Together, several businesses in central Indiana are creating a unique opportunity for students looking ahead to their college and career plans. FAME stands for Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education and the FAME initiative is currently in 13 states. Now as companies come together to kick off the new central Indiana chapter, INFAME, they need student participants in their cohort.

The program aims to give students a degree and hands-on training simultaneously without racking up college debt.

"We are in the midst of a student debt crisis across the entire country," Mike Griffith, president of Major Tool & Machine, said. "And so this program is a great way for students to get out of school, start earning money, and get their education and pay for that education while working."

Griffith knows that industry leaders play an important role in marketing this opportunity for the next generation of workers. That's why Major Tool and Machine is one of the five participating companies in the central Indiana chapter of INFAME.

"The need for workers in our, in this manufacturing environment, is just incredible right now," Griffith said. "Especially here in the state of Indiana, being the most manufacturing intensive state in the entire country."

Griffith says manufacturers have to fight an old stigma and showcase what this industry has to offer as the industry has changed over the years, and now it is very high tech.

"We're trying to change that perception and really it's about advanced manufacturing," Griffith said.

That's why this cohort that operates through Vincennes University is focusing on advanced manufacturing technicians. Students in this program will work in one of the participating businesses three days a week to learn those important hands-on skills. The other two days a week the students attend classes through Vincennes to gain the technical training they need on the job.

After two years, the students graduate with a degree and if they manage their money, no debt. Plus students may have the opportunity to continue on with a full-time position at that specific company if the experience goes well.

WRTV spoke with the participating companies back before the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, they had to suspend plans for the 2020 cohort out of an abundance of caution. However, WRTV has learned plans for the summer of 2021 are now on and applications are open for students who wish to apply.

In addition, the central Indiana chapter of INFAME will be teaming up with the new Hoosier FAME chapter, which includes corporations like Red Gold and Nestle in the Anderson and Muncie communities. Students will also have an opportunity to work at those locations if selected for the training program.

Kendra O'Brien, vice president of human resources with Major Tool and Machine, said students in this program will make at least $16 an hour while in school. Upon graduation, they can make $20 to $30 per hour plus overtime.

"It isn't just getting your degree. It isn't just having a career. It is having that lifestyle that you want to have and being able to pay for that yourself," O'Brien said.

Students in this AMT training program through INFAME will learn to work on machines. They will need multiple skills in electrical and mechanical areas.

Another company involved in this central Indiana chapter is Steel Dynamics.

Trevor Kipp is their rolling mill manager and he said this program is perfect for the type of employee they are looking to hire.

"There are 500 people at our facility. Fifty of them require a four-year degree. Four-hundred and fifty of them require the skills set that this advanced manufacturing technician program is going to develop," Kipp said.

Kipp said just because students take this pathway, doesn't mean their education has to stop there. Many manufacturing employers will help pay for employees to continue their education. Participants in this program could always go on to more school in the future.

Kipp said this program and career is perfect for the doers who like to use their hands.

"This should appeal to anybody who likes to work with their hands, likes to tear into things, figure out how they work, fix them, do those kinds of things," Kipp said. "And you can do that day in and day out."

The other participating businesses in this chapter include FTIC, 3M and Aero Industries.

Jane Faris Parsons is the HR manager for FTIC and says she thinks it would help get students interesting in manufacturing if they are reached out to earlier, in elementary school and middle school, not just high school upperclassmen.

Both Amy Mancini from 3M and Lisa Law with Aero Industries are mothers. They both agreed that getting the next generation interested in manufacturing opportunities has to start with language, and parents have to be educated about what a job in this industry has to offer.

"You have to get a certificate. You have to get something," Mancini said. "This program provides that something along with having a stable employer environment with great benefits."

Mancini said this is just another great pathway into a career that students and parents should consider and a participant in INFAME would have a captivated audience when looking for a job upon graduation. This program provides the training and skills these employers are looking for in prospective employees.

"I think what we are trying to do is change our mindsets, so my mindset as a parent needs to change as well so it's not just about the students," Mancini said. "It's about changing the mindset of the parent as well."

And Law agrees that options and pathways are important to students looking ahead at future plans.

"I can actually speak on that because I have two high schoolers right now. And I think it's important just to make sure that they have options, that they know that we're not trying to say that college is for everyone," Law said. "You don't have to go as a traditional student. I think the most attractive for me, as a mom, is for the fact that they can come out of this debt-free, which is huge because I'm still paying on student loan debts."

For the 2021 cohort, INFAME in central Indiana and Hoosier FAME are looking for up to 25 student participants. They plan to do another cohort the following year and possibly expand in future years to have multiple cohorts going at one time if the demand is there.

If you want to learn more or are interested at applying, you can go through Vincennes University and visit their website to start the application process for AMT training.

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