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Indiana Manufacturers Association Hosts Conference For Employers, Educators

More than 300 employees, educators and policymakers gathered in Indianapolis for the Indiana Manufacturers Association's conference. (Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News)

About 10,000 people retire each day in the U.S., according to Pew Research and the Social Security Administration. Nearly 300 employers and educators gathered Thursday for the Indiana Manufacturers Association’s first Work-based Learning Conference to discuss the growing workforce gap in manufacturing.

Indiana Manufacturers Association President Brian Burton says it’s an issue that’s only getting harder to solve.

“We have a tremendous amount of folks that are going to be retiring in the next few years, we’re going to lose 25 percent of our workforce in the next five years and up to 45 percent of our workforce in the next 10 years,” says Burton. “So it’s extremely important that we educate younger and younger kids about the opportunities for their future.”

Officials say the state can’t fill many of its jobs because large numbers of people are leaving the workforce and some don’t realize the ways they can still work.

Batesville Toll & Die Safety and Training Coordinator Lauren Mynsberg wishes more job-seekers knew about employment opportunities in manufacturing companies’ HR or accounting departments.

“While we want them to be interested in the manufacturing and the factory jobs, we also want them to be interested and eye-opened to the other opportunities,” says Mynsberg.

Discussions also sought to identify best practices for partnering with schools and transitioning young people into manufacturing jobs.

Announced at the Indiana Manufacturers Association, Purdue University will start a micro-grant program to promote the state’s ability to increase youth’s exposure and awareness to in-state manufacturing. The grants will range from $500-$2,000 to support innovations by – and partnerships between – economic development groups, businesses and schools.

The Indiana Next Generation Manufacturing Competitiveness Center, or IN-MaC at Purdue aims to boost the state’s pipeline of workers, specifically in manufacturing. Co-executive director Nathan Hartman says the new initiative is different than current partnerships between schools and businesses.

“I think what we see as potentially different with this particular program is our ability to bring together the community organizations, the employers, and the academic folks to work together on a more holistic solution,” says Hartman.

The grant cycle will run from Sep. 1 through April 31, 2019.

Workforce development has also been a major priority for state officials, including the governor, this year, especially in terms of school programming.

And Hartman says even young learners should be part of that conversation.

“Children as early as 5 or 6 years old begin to form opinions begin to form tendencies begin to form ideas about what it is they want to do when they grow up,” he says.

Administrators from schools with existing manufacturing-centered programs spoke at the event as well, and stressed the importance of involving teachers and parents to engage more students in the industry.

Many also said manufacturing and other workforce programs in schools will fit well into new graduation pathways for students moving forward. The new pathways go into effect with the class of 2023.

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