Vincennes University Partners to Help Bridge Skills Gap

vuBusiness is good at Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. (SIA) in Lafayette. The plant is expanding, with production of the Impreza set to begin in late 2016.

But there’s a speed bump fast approaching that could cause SIA and similar companies across the state to tap the brakes, if not come to a devastating halt.

The “middle-skills gap” is troubling some of Indiana’s biggest industries: advanced manufacturing, distribution and logistics, and the skilled trades, to name a few. Middle-skills jobs are those that call for more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree – and there is a critical shortage of workers with these credentials.

Brad Rhorer, manager of associate development at SIA, says highly-technical positions that require a certification or two-year degree are the most difficult for the company to fill.

“The industrial maintenance positions are very in-depth in knowledge and experience, and a lot of people do not have (skills in) those crafts any longer,” he emphasizes. “And we’ve got an aging workforce, so retirements are looming at the same time we’re expanding. It’s the perfect storm.”

A potential solution, some say, is to better coordinate education curriculum and work-based learning with real-world employer needs.

Read the full story in BizVoice.

Tour Events in Lafayette, Southern Indiana Connect Education with Industry

20140625_TF_Subaru_Legacy_Associates-8The Indiana Chamber recently co-sponsored two industry tours that brought educators and employers together to find ways to align efforts and better meet the needs of students.

The first event was in Lafayette at Subaru of Indiana Automotive. Educators, counselors and administrators listened to representatives from Caterpillar, Nanshan America, Kirby Risk, Duke Energy and Chrysler Group. Each employer seemed to be facing the same issue – a significant portion of their employees will soon be eligible for retirement and the current talent pool cannot replenish their workforce.

The group toured the Subaru plant, where they saw nearly every process for building a vehicle. Subaru, like many manufacturers, hires employees of almost all educational backgrounds, from high school diploma to master’s degree.

The next industry tour was in the southwest region at NSA Crane, a United States Navy installation. The base is the third largest naval installation in the world by geographic area and employs approximately 3,300 people.

Representatives from GKN Sinter Metals, TASUS Corporation, Cook Group and Jasper Engines all spoke about their workforces. Overwhelmingly, employer needs center on soft skills (communication, basic math and professionalism) and workforce readiness.

Matt Weinzapfel of Jasper Engines reported that 48% of their workforce hold an associate’s degree and/or technical certification and 36% hold no post-secondary degree, while only 16% hold bachelor’s degrees.

The group toured the Crane naval base and learned about jobs in electronic warfare, strategic missions and special missions. The base also offers internships within the various sectors.

“All of these jobs sitting open can be filled if we break down the knowledge barriers and reach students,” said Dan Peterson, vice president industry & government affairs, Cook Group.

The Indiana Youth Institute hosted the events, with the Center for Education and Career Innovation and the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning also co-sponsoring.

Subaru of Indiana Earns Big Honor for Corporate Service

The Indiana Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives recently announced that Subaru of Indiana Automotive (Lafayette) was honored for the company’s service to its community. We’re proud to call SIA a member and congratulate the company for giving back:

The Governor’s Service Awards honor the exemplary work of statewide nominees on behalf of their communities and the state. The 2012 awards were issued at an awards dinner on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, at the Governor’s Residence in Indianapolis. At the awards ceremony, the Corporate Service Award for 2012 was presented to Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. (SIA) of Lafayette.
The good works of the employees of SIA, as encouraged by the company’s executive and management teams, are too numerous to list. Employees raise $40,000 annually to support 150 kids through the Lyn Treece Boys and Girls Club. They have also support teams for nearly a dozen annual charity walks, raising tens of thousands of dollars for medical research, hunger initiatives and more along the way.
Additionally, Subaru team members partnered with other organizations in 2012 to fund and build the 1,500-square-foot Safe Haven Home, an emergency shelter for families displaced by disaster. This December, employees will once again participate in Holiday of Hope to grant more than 1,000 Lafayette children their holiday wishes.
The awards ceremony where SIA was awarded for these great deeds was one of three events over two days that comprise the 2012 Governor’s Conference on Service and Nonprofit Capacity Building, co-sponsored by the Indiana Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the IUPUI Polis Center’s SAVI Community Information System.
More than 200 people attended the awards dinner, including winners, their families and supporters, faith and community service leaders, nonprofit professionals and representatives from state and local governments.
WFYI Indianapolis radio host Matthew Socey emceed the awards dinner, and videos created by Sonar Studios spotlighting each recipient were featured.

Register Now for the D.C. Fly-in; Get Your Voice Heard

With next Tuesday’s primary just around the corner, political talk is dominating water cooler — and Twitter — chatter around the country. But regardless of who’s in office, legislators need to hear the voices of Indiana’s business community.

Please join us on our D.C. Fly-in on September 19-20. See just a few testimonials of past participants:

“The Indiana Chamber’s Washington D.C. Fly-In is a great way to gather information about pending legislation and regulations that are relevant to businesses in Indiana. It also provides an excellent opportunity to meet with Indiana’s Congressional Delegation and discuss a variety of current issues. I consider the Fly-In to be one of the most important ways that we make our voices heard in Washington.” – Tom Easterday, Executive Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.

“Employers large and small who participate in the Fly-In put a face on the challenges impacting Indiana businesses and make a very real difference. No other organization brings such a diverse group of highly respected business leaders together, from across our state, to engage elected officials on the key issues impacting our ability to create jobs.” – Tom Hirons, President & CEO, Hirons & Company Communications Inc. 

“The Indiana Chamber of Commerce DC Fly-in offers a once a year opportunity for Indiana Business Leaders to hear from and speak one on one to all the members of Indiana’s Congressional Delegation… Lugar, Coats, Pence, Visclosky, Pence, Donnelly…All the Democrats and Republicans representing our State’s interest on Capitol Hill. This Congressional access is not available anywhere else to Hoosier business leaders. Plus, the event offers the opportunity to network with other like-minded Chamber members to collaborate to make certain our message is heard AND acted upon. Members of Congress are often more responsive to ‘live’ business leaders that make the effort to come see them than the career lobbyists that they more often hear from.”, David Wulf – VP, Administration, Templeton Coal Company

Frito-Lay a Real Blue Chip for Frankfort

My parents and grandparents are all from Frankfort, and I spent the early part of my life as a Hot Dog. So it’s with great pride that I get to blog about a thriving business in this great town (known also to many as the place where "Blue Chips" was filmed). Frito-Lay not only employs 1,500 people at its Frankfort site (which includes two locations in the city), but it is making great strides in some key areas. Here are some facts you may not know about one of America’s premier snack makers:

  • The Frankfort plant is the largest site in Frito-Lay’s entire operation
  • Frito-Lay was the first major food company to remove trans fats from its entire snack chip portfolio
  • The Frankfort facility is working on a zero-landfill initiative. The company has been getting advice from Subaru in Lafayette, which has embarked upon a similar measure.
  • For its environmental awareness, the company won the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in 2008.

So there you go. The next time you devour a chili cheese Frito, don’t forget that you’re also supporting an outstanding Hoosier business. Frankfort workers will be grateful for your contribution — and Nick Nolte won’t make you run sprints after practice.

Letters to Our Leaders: Laboring for a Solution

Automotive production in the United States is moving south. Yes, Indiana has been successful recently in attracting Honda and incorporating a Toyota expansion into the existing Subaru facility in Lafayette, but those have been exceptions rather than the rule.

Since Nissan chose Smyrna, Tennessee for a plant location in 1983, the Volunteer state and neighbors in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina have become attractive locations for BMW, Kia, Honda and others. Good transportation and a strong workforce are two of the reasons. The biggest, according to some, is that these are right-to-work (RTW) states that allow the automakers (and other major employers) to avoid union concerns.

The 22 states with RTW laws have seen dramatic increases in economic development and personal incomes compared to those lacking the RTW measures. It’s not the lone reason, of course, but one that deserves full consideration.

One of the keys to progress for any state is standing out from the others. RTW would do that for Indiana in the Midwest and on a national level.

This week’s Letter to Our Leaders has the details.