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Northwest Indiana Region Manufacturers Initiate 'Work-and-Learn' Program to Bolster Local Workforce


Times of Northwest Indiana - A group of local manufacturers is partnering with the Center of Workforce Innovations to bring to the Region a national program that provides high school graduates the opportunity to train for a career in manufacturing while gaining paid work experience.


Seven businesses are the first to join a new chapter of the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, or FAME, known as INFAME in Indiana.


The program “follows a work-and-learn model allowing students to attend community college while providing paid on-the-job work experience,” said Leah Konrady, chairperson of South Shore INFAME and CEO of Portage-based Konrady Plastics. “This is a win-win-win for students looking for a career path in manufacturing, companies seeking to recruit strong talent, and higher education looking to work alongside students and employers.”


South Shore INFAME is joining 38 FAME chapters in 14 states in a program that offers students the opportunity to complete a two-year associate’s degree while working for a member business, gaining experience while helping pay for their education. In addition to Konrady Plastics, the local chapter thus far includes KTR Corp., Triplex Plating, American Renolit, Tristate Industries, Michigan City Paperbox and Windeavor.


"It's a really great way to capture students who are looking for a career in manufacturing," Konrady said.


Students apply for the program through their local FAME chapter and participating employers, and once enrolled, pursue an associate’s degree and certification as an advanced manufacturing technician. They’ll attend classes two days per week for eight hours or more each day, and will work at least 24 hours a week for their employer.


Other FAME chapters in Indiana include the Southern Indiana chapter based in Vincennes, a Central Indiana chapter based in Indianapolis, the Hoosier chapter based in Anderson and a Northeast Indiana chapter in Fort Wayne. The educational partner for the first three is Vincennes University; the northeast chapter is partnering with Ivy Tech Community College.


The South Shore group has issued a request for proposals from educational institutions to partner with it, and has set an April 30 due date for proposals. Potential higher education partners, as well as employers interested in joining South Shore INFAME and high schools interested in a presentation on the program this fall, may contact Shaun Sahlhoff, the planning and project development associate for the Center of Workforce Innovations, at 219-248-7455 or ssahlhoff@cwicorp.com.


“Manufacturing is the backbone of Northwest Indiana and our country, and this program provides a pathway to sustain manufacturing in the Region,” Konrady said. “With many baby boomers retiring, now is the time to bridge the age and talent gap and attract and retain the next generation of talent.”

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