Noble County is feeding its manufacturing talent pipeline

Article provided by Kendallville NewsSun:

We are fortunate in Noble County — and in fact throughout northeast Indiana — that we have a relatively low unemployment rate and that employers in many industry sectors have job openings.

But it’s also true that some people post-recession are feeling underemployed (either in wages or hours or both) and their lifestyles would be greatly improved by pursuing a better career path. In Noble County, that career path could be manufacturing, which not only pays relatively good wages but is also critical to the county’s economy.

Noble County has the highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in northeast Indiana and one of the highest among the nation’s 3,200 counties. The most recent data supplied by the Community Research Institute at IPFW indicates Noble County ranks 15th nationally. Almost 50 percent of the jobs in Noble County and 60 percent of the earnings are in the manufacturing sector.

And here, perhaps, is the most important thing: Many manufacturers have been hiring, expect to continue hiring and are in some cases having a difficult time finding workers.

So, not only is it vital that we find ways to elevate county residents’ standard of living, it is imperative that we develop initiatives to supply and strengthen the talent pipeline for Noble County’s core industry.

Under the banner of our Noble Up manufacturing campaign and with assistance from the Manufacturing and Education Alliance and Northeast Indiana Works, we have offered certification-based training programs in industrial maintenance, welding and CNC (computer numerical control) machining to help existing high-potential manufacturing employees elevate their skills and improve their chances of promotions and wage increases.

We have also been going into schools and talking to students and staff to create an awareness about certification-based opportunities in manufacturing, which today is largely characterized by high-tech operations in clean environments. Those opportunities are highlighted at a Northeast Indiana Works website (www.madebyme.me).

Lastly and most relevant to this writing, we are about to conduct the second class of a program designed to introduce unemployed or underemployed individuals who have little or no manufacturing experience to Noble County’s signature industry. The free, 42-hour, four-week Manufacturing Entry Training Academy (META) offers plant tours, class visits by manufacturers, and instruction in plant safety, communications and teamwork, quality control, problem solving, and manufacturing processes.

The program, offered through the Freedom Academy, is a foot in the door to a solid career, and those who successfully complete the class land interviews with Noble County manufacturers.

Of the 10 people who completed the first class, five got jobs in the manufacturing industry — a good record considering some of the participants chose to pursue other employment options. The next META class begins Sept. 12, and people can sign up or learn more by visiting www.nobleup.com or by contacting the WorkOne Northeast career center in Kendallville at 599-1000 or by visiting the center at 524 Fairview Blvd. The center is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

META offers a perfect union between the needs of individuals and manufacturers in Noble County, and it is imperative that both seize the opportunity. Our future economic stability depends on innovative, integrated strategies like META that tackle our community’s workforce challenges.

Rick Sherck is the executive director of the Noble County Economic Development Corp.