GOSHEN — An Ivy Tech Community College leader who visited Elkhart County has called the school’s new training center for students a “game changer” for the area.
Ivy Tech hopes to play a major role in boosting the number of employees ready for the workforce and strengthening retention among workers in the community with the help of its new World Class Lean Advanced Manufacturing Training Center. Thomas Coley, chancellor of the college’s north central region, touted Ivy Tech’s plans for the $14-million facility in Goshen on Tuesday, April 30, in hope of gaining support from city and county leaders.
Ivy Tech has been working closely with the manufacturing industry to address what is known as the “skills gap” among job seekers. The problem, Coley said, is not exclusive to Elkhart County.
“It’s regional,” he said. “It’s national. It’s something that we have to work together for, but we have a solution for Elkhart County in this advanced manufacturing center, so the emphasis is on the immediate need for qualified employees, soft skill attainment and technical skills like basic math, problem solving, the ability to run measurements and computer skills to program machines.”
Coley projects that the new training center will produce more than 400 graduates every year.
Ivy Tech announced plans last year to add the training center to its Elkhart campus. The college bought 43 acres behind the property for roughly $1 million to build the new facility. Thomas Kilian Jr., who is spearheading fundraising for the project, expects to have another $5 million raised over the next six months. Coley said he hopes to have enough money raised for the project by this time next year to begin planning construction.
The new 55,000-square-foot facility will include space for a flex lab as well as an automotive and recreational vehicle center. The new building will be stocked with the latest technology, equipment and machinery, Coley said. The training center will feature welding labs, classrooms, a digital library, computer simulation labs, meeting rooms, offices for school staff and more.
John Letherman, county council president, has been an early supporter of the project.
“This is something that is going to create productivity, going to create profit and going to create better jobs,” he said
Manufacturing makes up more than 36 percent of the employment in Elkhart County, Coley pointed out. Providing training programs for future manufacturing workers would exhibit the county’s commitment to the industry, he added.
“You’re not going to attract the kind of companies that you want to grow Elkhart County without having the kind of training that you need for today’s production processes,” Coley said. “You have to have something in place that demonstrates that.”