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Indiana County Forms Initiative to Train Workers

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December 6, 2013 by   Leave a Comment

There are plenty of jobs in Indiana’s St. Joseph County, but local manufacturing companies say hiring and keeping skilled workers isn’t easy.

According to a report by WSBT, South Bend, a new workforce initiative program is aiming to change that. St. Joseph County abuts Elkhart County, home to the manufacturing hub for the RV industry.

The goal with the new S.M.A.R.T. (Supporting Manufacturers and Regional Talent) program is to help the unemployed and under-employed manufacturing workers in St. Joseph County find a job and help companies throughout the county get a stronger, better workforce.

“I like to tell people you’re never more than 10 feet from a Nyloncraft product,” laughed the company’s President and CEO Jim Krzyzewski.

The Mishawaka-based company makes parts for cars, trucks and medical equipment. Krzyzewski said good work is hard to find, especially because training that used to take two weeks now takes five or six.

“When people come into a manufacturing environment, they really have no idea what they’re getting into,” Krzyzewski said. “Therefore, a lot of people don’t make 90 days. They don’t like the work, they don’t stay, so you have a constant churning of people.”

That turnover hurts his bottom line.

“Young high school people really have no idea what we do,” he continued. “They’re into the knowledge-based economy – banking, computers. Manufacturing and making stuff is really foreign to them.”

Earlier this year, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood and the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce began meeting with a group of several local manufacturing business owners in St. Joseph County, including Krzyzewski.

Together, they came up with a new program they hope will support the manufacturing industry in the county and the talent they’re recruiting.

The goal under the S.M.A.R.T program, is for WorkOne to begin taking applications from unemployed and under-employed people in January. From there, they will choose 48 people to go through the pilot program in 2014. The two cities are paying for those people to be trained through Ivy Tech as skilled manufacturing workers.

South Bend is chipping in $70,000 for the program, and Mishawaka is contributing $25,000, said Chris Fielding, South Bend’s Director of Business Development.

“What we see as an investment of those taxpayer and business being reinvested into the human capital in our community that will generate long term revenue but it will also reduce the reliance on social service projects in the community. It’s a good investment,” Fielding added.

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