ELKHART – Since its inception last year, the Advanced Manufacturing Sector Partnership of Elkhart County has gained state and national attention. The Horizon Education Alliance, a local nonprofit in Elkhart County, has been working with Lippert Components to provide new training opportunities to bring more advanced manufacturing to the county.

“Here in Elkhart we have a small population, jobs growing quickly and an economy that is already investing in advanced manufacturing,” Lippert Components President Scott Mereness said at a press conference Thursday morning at Lippert Plant 66. “But how do we impact more of the population?”

Announced Thursday, the AMSP has received roughly $9.5 million to keep the program going. Through the partnership, education leaders work with industry leaders to provide training for workers to learn new skills and also earn an education.

The Skill UP Indiana! award, presented by Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development, granted the AMSP $1.7 million for continued training efforts at 11 sites in the South Bend-Elkhart region. Over the last six years, local investments have amassed $4.3 million to help support the program. Through the Labor Institute for Training, the U.S. Department of Labor has also granted the AMSP $3.2 million. And lastly, private investors from the Lumina and Kresge foundations teamed up to name Elkhart County a talent hub and provide $275,000 for worker training over the next 31 months.

The county is one of 24 communities across the nation to be designated talent hubs by the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation.

Through the AMSP, education and manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Lippert Components is the first to pilot one of the new training programs through apprenticeships. With the funding received, nearly 60 Lippert team members are enrolled in the program, which also specializes in training Spanish-speaking workers. Lippert employee Manuel Cortez is one of those apprentices, and at 51 years old, he said he appreciates the training he has received while working in Goshen.

“Lippert has helped me get more skills I can use in my own community,” Cortez said at the press conference. “I can help my neighbor, or help my brother or sister.”

Goshen College and Ivy Tech partnered with industry and business leaders to ensure the education received through the AMSP is beneficial and done well.

“It’s a step toward opening doors in the community to the kind of excellence in teaching and learning that we have always provided,” Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus said. “But we’re offering it in new venues with new topics to new audiences – currently employed workers who want to progress within industry and manufacturing.”

Ben Mikesell can be reached at ben.mikesell@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 328. Follow him on Twitter at @ben_mikesell.

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