ELKHART - Officials in northern Indiana will Tuesday mark the launch of the LIFT Network Apprenticeship Program. Operated by the South Bend - Elkhart Regional Partnership and the Northern Indiana Workforce Board, the two-year program is designed to connect manufacturing and advanced industry companies with resources to implement apprenticeship programs that will equip adult workers with the skills to succeed in an increasingly digital environment. Scott Ford, managing director of iNDustry Labs at the University of Notre Dame, says the apprenticeships are tailored toward in-demand jobs, including CNC machinists, robotics technicians and industrial maintenance mechanics.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Ford said the apprenticeship program represents the design of the LIFT Network itself.
"It was developed to leverage and amplify the existing resources and programs in our region, so key partners in this effort include Ivy Tech and Purdue Polytechnic, which are great assets in our region," said Ford. "It was also developed to help clarify and simplify the engagement process by establishing a common access point that is across our region. It's developed explicitly to adapt to the emerging needs of industry, so as new roles and new skills are identified, we can stand up these programs to help companies equip their employees."
Ford said having such an apprenticeship program in place is fundamental to industry growth, especially when you factor in a tightening labor market.
"There's increased production demand pressure, so how do you meet those increased goals with the same workforce?" he said. "You've got to equip them to be more productive through automation and new technologies. So, having these skills to do that is absolutely fundamental."
Regina Emberton, chief executive officer of the South Bend - Elkhart Regional Partnership, says the program aims to address one of the most consistent challenges facing companies looking to either expand or relocate their business to the region: finding skilled maintenance and technician-level talent.
The kickoff of the program comes as a pre-week celebration for National Apprenticeship Week, which kicks off November 15, and Emberton says Tuesday's event, which will include both in-person and virtual attendees, will provide the opportunity to share information about the apprenticeship model.
"We've got a couple of pilot companies that have been running apprenticeship programs supported by the LIFT Network this summer and the launch event will be the chance to share that information with other employers, to release a playbook that talks about how you can get engaged with setting up an apprenticeship program in your company so that incumbent workers or new workers are able to skill up and take advantage of these opportunities," said Emberton.
The apprenticeship program is being funded through a $1.1 million Apprenticeship Training Fund.
"Through that, private sector employers that are either in the manufacturing sector or in an advanced industry here in north central Indiana...are able to participate and having their apprenticeships subsidized," she said. "So, some of those costs for the third-party education provider - could be Ivy Tech Community College or Purdue Polytechnic - are subsidized by the LIFT Network training fund."
Emberton says the big goal for the partnership is to have up to 400 apprentices across 130 companies going through the program by mid-2025.
You can learn more about the program by clicking here.
Read the original story from Inside Indiana Business here.