Tracy Freed measured her work carefully before she picked up a cordless drill and put a screw through a 2-by-4. The simple task was part of a new training program for those wanting jobs in the recreational vehicle industry in Indiana’s Elkhart County.

As reported by the Goshen News, Freed was working at a fast-food restaurant. She signed up for the one-week training course at Elkhart County’s Ivy Tech campus hoping to land a better job.

“This will help me change careers,” she said.

Freed’s son works in the booming RV industry.

“He told me I can make really good money,” she said.

The Ivy Tech course is sponsored by RV suppliers Patrick Industries Inc. and Lippert Components Inc. as well as Thor Industries Inc., which is one of the top two RV manufacturing companies in North America.

“Manufacturing is the largest segment of employment in Elkhart County,” said Julie Foster, Ivy Tech campus president. “We did not have any technology or manufacturing courses at our Elkhart campus, so meeting with local businesses about what their needs were, we came up with this one-week course.”

Students pay just $50 to learn how to use power tools that RV industry workers use daily. Students also practice their measuring skills and are grouped in teams, to simulate the production teams used in the industry, according to Mark Hoeflinger, the program’s instructor.

He said students work on framing, using 2-by-4s to simulate the outside frame of an RV. They have to measure where to put vents, doors and windows and they then have to cut the lumber to fit the needs of the project.

“We took a lot of different aspects of jobs at manufacturers,” he said in how the curriculum was created.

The week-long project ends with students creating a floor plan and constructing a wall. They will then install cabinets and set bathroom fixtures, according to Hoeflinger.

“Everyone gets all these experiences,” he said.

After the first three weeks of classes, Hoeflinger said of the students, “Everyone is doing twice as good at the end of the week then at the start of the week.”

A bonus of the program is job interviews. At the end of the week company representatives provide the job interviews to the students who have earned their one-week training certificate.

Hoeflinger believes that the program is already showing signs of success.

“Last week (Feb. 13) we had eight people come back from companies for second interviews,” he said.

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