Federal funding streams allow La Porte manufacturers to skill up current workers

The La Porte County SkillUp Network secured funds through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s third round of SkillUp funds. This round of funding is intended to help manufacturers in La Porte County upskill their current workers on new technologies and processes. For several regional employers who took advantage of these SkillUp and other workforce training funds, the outcomes have been positive, and are continuing to contribute to workforce development in La Porte County.

Karen Kopka, Senior Human Resources Manager at American Licorice in La Porte indicated that they have used funding primarily for Certified Production Technician (CPT) training over the past few years. It’s allowed them to upskill many of their current workers, while also contributing to their entering into Senior Production Associate positions.

A few incentives are extended to those who select to go through one of CPT training programs through Ivy Tech. They are paid for the time they spend in class and upon completion they get a cash bonus.

The training exposes them to areas they weren’t previously familiar with. “It’s bolstered associate confidence, and employees return to their jobs with a higher sense of loyalty and commitment, knowing we invested in them,” said Kopka.

Kopka also mentioned that American Licorice is offering an apprenticeship type program through their new maintenance shop and are looking forward to graduating their first class of participants soon. SkillUp funds are being used to support this training program at American Licorice.

Arconic decided to “go big” with the training dollars extended to them, at least that’s how Terra Grinnell, Arconic’s HR Director & Talent Manager describes it.  It was time to provide an opportunity for 20 of their supervisors to kick their leadership skills up a notch. After meeting with the Center of Workforce Innovations about funds and doing some exploration of leadership development training providers that would align with their needs, it became evident that the clear choice was Ivy Tech. Not only did they offer a popular Development Dimensions International (DDI) curriculum and a quality instructor, they agreed to conduct the coursework training on-site at Arconic. This allowed supervisors to attend on-site classes either at the beginning or end of their shift, while strong team leads stepped in to cover for them during class.

“Dedicated time together as supervisors is rare and those who completed the training felt it was invaluable, said Grinnell. The sharing of their individual experiences and knowledge among one another, created a sense of trust and camaraderie Grinnell added.  “Arconic believes that it was time well spent away from work stations and dollars well invested, and we are thankful to the Center of Workforce Innovations and SkillUp funds,” cited Grinnell.

When Tim Johnson, president at MCTD in Michigan City recently took advantage of incumbent welding worker training funds he offered to his journeyman machinist at his tool-and-die making company. But Johnson also touted a recent Mastercam training that was funded through SkillUp dollars. “By sending one of our lead machinists through the Mastercam training at Ivy Tech in South Bend, we’ve seen a decrease in waste and productivity has jumped,” said Johnson. Something Johnson did was to pull together the management team and had his trained employee share just how sophisticated the programming can be and it allowed them to see how it can increase productivity. “In fact, this employee is now able to teach others how to use Mastercam,” Johnson added.

Sullair’s Kelly Molchan, who serves as their Talent Acquisition Specialist, said that they’ve relied on the on on-the-job training method for their maintenance areas, and is happy to say that their turnover has been low. “With regards to leadership training for our supervisors, they all go through Hitachi University,” said Molchan.

While, they haven’t taken advantage of Skill Up funding directly, they have partnered with WorkOne and Ivy Tech to take advantage of individuals who completed Certified Production Technician (CPT) training.  Sullair was able to visit the classrooms and meet the students prior to graduation in order to take advantage of the students who were upgrading their skills.  One of the candidates they hired has been there a year and is now helping with product promotion.  In addition, Sullair hosted a number of interns last summer. The exposure to manufacturing will help these students tremendously as they complete their education and find employment in this field.  

Linda Woloshansky, president and CEO of the Center of Workforce Innovations who serves as the fiscal agent for the grant, encourages La Porte County employers to identify where they may have gaps in skill levels among their production workers, and then reach out to WorkOne Business Services Manager, Becky Fry to determine if they might qualify for training funds.  Becky can be reached at 219.462.2940, ext. 1043 or by email at bfry@gotoworkonenw.com.  For further general information on the La Porte County SkillUp Network, contact Tamara Stump at 219.462.2940 ext. 1032 or email tstump@cwicorp.com.

                                                                                                (February 2020)