Indiana needs to look more toward green manufacturing because traditional automotive production won’t return to its former state, according to a report released Wednesday.
The trick will be to prepare the work force, according to the report “Driving Change: Greening the Automotive Workforce.”
Within the 90-page analysis, researchers explain the state of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio’s automotive industries, and what they need to do to compete globally.
The project was a collaboration among the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Indiana University’s Indiana Business Researcher Center, the Indiana State Workforce Innovation Council and six other organizations from Michigan and Ohio.
Among the findings of the research, the report states many of the people who lost jobs in auto manufacturing should consider looking for work in new business sectors.
But many of the unemployed workers face trouble finding jobs because they lack proper education or training, said Jerry Conover, director of the Indiana Business Research Center.
“If you look at the auto work force, there are lots of people still working or who have lost their jobs recently who have relatively limited training or the kinds of knowledge and skills for the jobs that will be growing in demand,” Conover said. “... A worker who’s been on a production line is now looking for a job as, let’s say, a technician who can install and maintain wind turbines.”
The report’s website, www.drivingworkforcechange.org, includes a database that breaks down jobs that people currently have and what types of jobs might be good ones to transition into. The website also provides information about what colleges and universities provide necessary training and degrees for certain careers.
Manufacturers will look more for employees who have skills such as engineering or design. Production-level jobs on which the state built its manufacturing-based economy will continue moving away, according to the report.
Kokomo has had steps in the proper direction in the past few years, Conover said.
Chrysler Group plans to install production equipment for eight-speed and nine-speed transmissions, both of which are supposed to improve fuel efficiency. And Delphi Electronics and Safety last year began producing parts for high-voltage batteries that go into hybrid and electric vehicles.
“The transmissions that use less power to get a vehicle to get where it’s going ultimately will help in the right direction,” Conover said. “The kinds of electronics and control systems that Delphi deals with certainly play a role, too.”
Colorado-based solar panel module manufacturer Abound Solar will be the Kokomo area’s first major factory in the green energy industry when it begins operating in Tipton County.
The roughly 1,000 jobs the company says it will bring to the area will provide a new industry for laid-off workers.
Getting workers ready for green jobs will require assistance.
Conover said programs such as federal Trade Adjustment Assistance will help. The program covers school expenses for people who lost their jobs to foreign competition. The federal funding also helps with job searches.
Valerie Kroeger, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, noted that Trade Adjustment Assistance has restricted eligibility, but the state has several other programs for job seekers to use.
Many people visit state-managed WorkOne Centers — Kokomo’s is at 709 S. Reed Road — to prepare for interviews or learn how to network, Kroeger said. Classes that teach basic computer skills or programs, such as Microsoft Office, have also been in high demand among laid-off workers, she said.
The “Driving Change” report says manufacturing companies have begun searching more for people, including those for hourly production line jobs, who have good “soft skills,” such as communication or critical thinking.
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at daniel.human@ kokomotribune.com.