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.

Vincennes University Working to Tackle Skills Gap

Our team recently had the opportunity to visit Vincennes University (VU). We spoke with their administration about the work they do to prepare students for today’s high-demand jobs.

We toured their campus, including a visit to the impressive Red Skelton Performing Arts Center. We also walked through the Indiana Center for Applied Technology, which had several labs with technical equipment used by manufacturing companies for students to train. Some of the machines were “welding robots,” and each was given a human name. Vice President Dave Tucker said that, while machines exist to ease human labor (welding in particular is difficult on the body), there is still a need for skilled engineers and mathematicians to program the robots.

We also toured Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMMI) in Princeton, IN. VU has a partnership with TMMI called the Toyota Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (AMT). The program includes a two-year degree in Computer Integrated Manufacturing: Robotics that combines cutting-edge curriculum and paid working experience, along with learning highly sought-after business principles and best practices of a world-class manufacturer. Their giant robots were affectionately named “Godzilla!”


Summers Was Always There With a Helpful Word

When I arrived at the Indiana Chamber oh so many years ago — 15 to be exact — education issues were at the forefront. Not a major surprise there. Various K-12 and higher education topics were part of our policy communications and more in-depth BizVoice magazine stories.

After writing such articles, I would anticipate the feedback. Often, then and today, that analysis — good or bad — would not come. (It's no secret that when reporters do hear from readers about their work, it's typically because someone is upset). But I could often count on a note or comment from at least one Indiana Chamber board member at the time in Vincennes University President Phillip Summers.

Summers, who passed away earlier this week, served 21 years (1980-2001) as the leader at VU. His is credited with many initiatives, from modernizing the home campus to growing programs in Jasper and at the Aviation Technology Center in Indianapolis. During our interactions, Summers was always thoughtful and insightful.

His handwritten notes often went beyond education issues. He was very complimentary of the work being done at the time to build BizVoice into a strong Chamber publication. If we missed the mark on what we were reporting, he would let us know that too — in a constructive manner.

After learning of Summers' death, I went back to the year 2000 and his participation in one of our roundtable discussions on the then-beginnings of the community college system and its relationship to regional campuses. I'll share that article here in thanking Phil Summers for his guidance and his outstanding work in the education world.

Best wishes to his family and the Vincennes University community.


Vincennes U., Plainfield Partner for Major Logistics Project

I’m wrapping up the finishing touches on a March/April BizVoice article on logistics initiatives in Indiana, and it highlights the new Logistics Training and Education Center in Plainfield. Inside INdiana Business interviewed Vincennes University President Dick Helton about the development. See the video here:

Vincennes University is dedicating a new Logistics Training and Education Center today in Plainfield. The launch of the facility has been aided by a $500,000 grant from the town. In an interview to air this weekend on Inside INdiana Business Television, VU President Dick Helton talks about the role the center is playing in helping train the state’s logistics workforce.

Helton: Vincennes Opens Doors of Opportunity

Vincennes University President Dick Helton tells us what many people may not know about his school, which was created before Indiana was even a state.

Vincennes University has a sense of place and mission that distinguishes it in Hoosier higher education.
More than a decade before Indiana became a state in 1816; a frontier college opened its doors on the banks of the Wabash River to help students improve their lives, as well as the future of their communities. 

Today, VU’s 160-acre campus is anchored on one side by the 1803 home of William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the U.S., and on the other side by a complex of some of the state’s most modern academic and technological facilities. That contrast serves as an inspirational reminder of the power of a vision, a vision that is just as vibrant today as it was when Harrison founded the college.

From national prominence in advanced manufacturing programs to statewide leadership in early college and dual credit instruction, VU continues to meet the needs of students, including those who come from 21 states and 26 countries. VU’s mission extends to campuses in Jasper and the Indianapolis International Airport to Business and Industry instruction statewide. VU’s Distance Education and Military Education programs reach students worldwide.

VU’s Project EXCEL has offered dual credit/concurrent enrollment programs since 1975, longer than any Indiana college. With a fee of only $25 per credit hour (free for students who qualify for free/reduced lunch) Project EXCEL reaches 125 Indiana schools. 

VU’s early college partnership with Ben Davis University H.S., Arsenal Technical H.S., Washington Community H.S., and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation offers students the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree simultaneously.

Indiana’s first college continues to open doors of opportunity statewide, nationwide, and worldwide.