GOSHEN — The vision of a new, $14 million advanced manufacturing training center for Elkhart County came a step closer to reality Thursday afternoon following a meeting of the Elkhart County Redevelopment Commission.
During Thursday’s meeting, commission members voted in favor of providing $500,000 toward infrastructure improvements for the proposed center, which Ivy Tech Community College is proposing to construct directly behind the current Ivy Tech Elkhart County campus on C.R. 18.
The vote followed a presentation and funding request by Thomas Coley, chancellor of the Ivy Tech Community College North Central and Northwest regions, and Thomas Killian Jr., executive director of resource development for the Ivy Tech North Central Region, who together outlined Ivy Tech’s plans for the new advanced manufacturing center while also explaining why the organization feels such a facility is necessary for the continued advancement of Elkhart County and the region as a whole.
According to Coley, Elkhart County at any given time these days has approximately 2,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs, a statistic tied directly to the fact that the county has a significant shortfall in workers with the necessary skills and technical training to fill those positions. Couple that with an unemployment rate hovering between 7 and 9 percent in recent months, and that statistic becomes even more significant.
With manufacturing accounting for a significant percentage of both employment and earnings in Elkhart County, Coley said it is vital that the county increase its number of graduates with manufacturing-related degrees and certificates, though there is currently no stand-alone facility dedicated to advancing the manufacturing profession in North Central Indiana.
“You need to have a trained workforce to not only keep, but to attract jobs in the area,” Coley said. “We need to provide the kind of skill sets that make them employable not only for a particular industry, but skill sets that could be applicable across any industry.”