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South Bend-Elkhart region launches a new adult apprenticeship program

Leighton talking with mic

Leighton Johnson, director of education and workforce at the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership, is leading the LIFT Network apprenticeship. (Justin Hicks)

An economic development group in the South Bend Elkhart area is piloting a new apprenticeship program for the region. he program will be run by Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation, or, LIFT Network. It's part of a partnership between the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership and the University of Notre Dame, born out of a $42.4 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. 

At the launch, two companies and a total of seven apprentices are committed, with more expected to join. Jobs had to show projected growth in the future to be eligible for apprenticeships in industries like industrial maintenance and robotics. Apprentices are full-time employees and companies can get up to $5,000 to train each worker.

Rob Michalak is president of Masterbilt Incorporated, one of the companies in the process of starting an apprenticeship with LIFT Network. He said they’d talked about apprenticeships internally, but simply needed a push.

“We thought that this was the perfect way to get people in the door ... but then help us develop a [training] system that we don’t have time to do – or don’t take the time, right?” Michalak said.

LIFT plans to release an "Apprenticeship Playbook" this week to walk companies through the process of starting an apprenticeship program.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

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