HEA Director Dr. Jason Harrison

Business and industry leaders gathered this morning at the Lippert Components (LCI) Plant 66 in Elkhart, Ind., to acknowledge four sources of funding totaling nearly $9.5 million awarded to the Advanced Manufacturing Sector Partnership (AMSP) of Elkhart County.

The partnership was formed just one year ago when Elkhart-area manufacturers came together with local education leaders. At that time industry representatives from a full spectrum of companies shared their common needs with K-12, higher education, and adult education providers, tthe goal being to elevate the region’s skill sets to help develop a workforce of the future.

The awards consisted of $1.7 million coming from the Skill UP! foundation for the acknowledgement of the state’s “innovation network” with support from the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The second award presented was $4.3 million from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County with collaboration from local government ($100,000) and The United Way ($20,000). An award of $3.2 million was granted in partnership from the Department of Labor (DOL) Jobs for the Future (JFF) initiative. The final award presented was from the National “Talent Hub” designated by the Lumina Foundation of $275,000.

“On behalf of our nearly 12,000 team members worldwide we are excited to be hosting such a great economic development announcement today,” said Scott Mereness, president of LCI. “Elkhart County was ranked No. 1 in 2016 and No. 2 in 2017 in the small metro population category for growth. But a lesser known statistic is that per capita, Elkhart County was rated No. 1 for manufacturing robotic installations.”

In his introduction, Mereness praised participants in the funding announcement for keeping their eye on the future. “Our future state involves larger and more modernized factories,” he said. The facilities will have many advanced manufacturing cells. Robots and team members will work side-by-side to be extremely efficient using world-class technology. And companies such as ours will need highly skilled workers to succeed,” he said.

LCI President Scott Merenes at press conference

The Horizon Education Alliance (HEA) is an Elkhart County nonprofit organization focused on community collaboration that leads to educational attainment and economic vitality for our region. It is the primary conduit for the new funding.

In announced the funding awards, Dr. Jason Harrison, HEA (Horizon Educational Alliance) director of pathways for students said, “it is a great honor today to talk about the awards and successes of our advanced manufacturing partnership. The collaboration that started with a group of local industry leaders focused on their needs. Over the last year we created a plan and this collaboration has resulted in four awards that we have today.”

The AMSP of Elkhart County has attracted state and national attention along with investment dollars from Indiana’s DWD, to the U.S. Department of Labor and the private national foundation Lumina.

Skill UP Indiana! is DWD’s investment into “innovation networks” around the state, with more than $9.5 million being awarded to 11 sites. The largest award in the state has been given to the South Bend and Elkhart region. DOL money is being leveraged through a partnership with Labor Institute for Training (LIFT) and its Growing Opportunities in America for Latinos (GOAL) initiative.

Last month the Lumina Foundation designated Elkhart County as an official “Talent Hub” for its efforts, one of only 24 in the country. As a designated Talent Hub, Elkhart County is set to receive $275,000 in grant funding over 31 months.

LCI has been a key partner for the AMSP. Other industry partners have include Benteler Automotive, GDC, Goshen Stamping, Hoosier Crane, Kem Krest, KIB Electronics, NIBCO, and Robert Weed Corp. Key education partners have included Goshen College, Ivy Tech, and all local K-12 school districts in Elkhart County. Additional partners include local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and workforce development agencies.

LCI is the first to pilot one of the new training programs. The Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) DOL apprenticeship program is underway at LCI’s Plants 45 and 228W, at which about 60 LCI team members are participating. The pilot has enabled the implementation of a bilingual version, the first of its kind in the U.S.

“We’re very excited to be a part of this effort, and were looking forward to the great benefits it will provide to the (Elkhart) community’s wellness and prosperity. Through education, empowerment, leadership and technical training, the grant funding will help move our industry into the next era.” said Mereness.

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) serves the worker and the employer to ensure workplace success. DWD is committed to innovating and invigorating Indiana’s economic future by providing WorkOne career centers, unemployment insurance, labor market information, regional workforce strategies and professional training. Through these services, DWD is able to develop a premier workforce that enables Indiana employers to flourish and entices businesses from outside our state to relocate to Indiana. DWD administers the JAG program in Indiana.

Launched in 2012, Horizon Education Alliance (HEA) is a non-profit organization created by Elkhart County education and business leaders. By engaging individuals from multiple sectors throughout the community, HEA supports the educational success of all residents. In doing so, HEA believes Elkhart County can be a world-class community. HEA engages a model of “innovation through collaboration” by creating and sustaining strong partnerships, identifying and assisting in the implementation of evidence-based practices, and monitoring and evaluating progress toward community-level goals.

Labor Institute for Training (LIFT) is a non-profit organization based in Indiana whose goal is to advocate for and assist in the development of educational programs that increase and improve individual’s employment opportunities. LIFT delivers workshops, training seminars, and technical assistance to support worker centered scenarios and includes services such as Transition Centers, Joint Labor/Management Partnerships, Employee groups, Employers, State and Local Workforce Investment Boards, Workforce Investment Act and other related workforce development service providers.