Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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December 13, 2013

Training the next generation

Chrysler, Ivy Tech to launch advanced manufacturing program.

Teenagers will complete root-cause analysis alongside Chrysler engineers in coming years through a new advanced manufacturing program.

As part of Project AIM Hire — offered through a partnership with Chrysler, Ivy Tech Community College and potentially nine area high schools — students will have the chance to gain hands-on advanced manufacturing experience while earning their high school diplomas.

“Chrysler is very excited about the opportunity to enhance central Indiana with jobs and opportunities for students,” said James Woolf, community outreach and educational engagement specialist at Chrysler’s Kokomo transmission plant. “We’re preparing students to be problem solvers, not part makers.”

Woolf gave a presentation at Eastern Howard School Corp.’s board of education meeting Tuesday, where the board gave its unanimous support for a resolution to participate in the Advanced Innovative Manufacturing (AIM) program.

Eastern joined Maconaquah School Corp., Peru Community School Corp., Northwestern School Corp., Western School Corp. and Hamilton Heights School Corp. in committing to the program. Two other area school corporations also have expressed interest in getting involved.

Chrysler, like many industrial companies across the state and nation, has found itself with an aging group of employees and a lack of skilled workers available in the job pool. In light of this skills gap, Woolf began brainstorming outreach programs in July to train the next generation of manufacturing workers.

Eastern Superintendent Tracy Caddell is excited about the opportunity. He thinks the program will appeal to a variety of students.

“It will meet a population (of students) that we haven’t reached out to in the past,” Caddell said. “For the past 20 years, we (as a state) haven’t talked about career, technical or vocational education. … We’ve put all our eggs in the basket of kids graduating from college.”

The program was first pitched to the Kokomo Area Career Center, Caddell said, but it wasn’t a viable option. Ivy Tech proved a better partner for this program.

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