Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

April 11, 2014

MATT CONRAD: Chrysler, Purdue alliance

Partnership reflects Indiana's innovative leadership

It takes about an hour to navigate the route from Purdue University in West Lafayette to Chrysler Group LLC’s Kokomo and Tipton plants. But the new partnership between the university and the global auto manufacturer moves Indiana’s automotive industry dramatically forward.

The two will share research and development efforts, and provide learning opportunities for both Purdue students and Chrysler employees worldwide in a collaboration that reflects the best of what can be accomplished when industry and higher education work together.

The partnership recently announced includes seven specific projects, funded with a $1.2 million investment from Chrysler. It builds on a two-year-old relationship between the automaker and the university that has already seen Purdue landscape architecture students working on several Chrysler facilities, and interior design students completing indoor projects.

The educational piece comprises internships and co-op programs with Chrysler for Purdue students, and distance-education programs for the company’s global employees. Purdue faculty and graduate and undergraduate students are working side-by-side with Chrysler employees on identified projects, and Purdue students also are participating in service-learning programs with Kokomo high school students.

This is a shining example of the workforce development and innovation efforts the Indiana Automotive Council (IAC) has championed to help close the skills gap existing between today’s advanced manufacturing and automotive employers and the employee pool. The IAC, an industry-led partnership sponsored by Conexus Indiana and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. with collaboration from higher education leaders, is the state’s initiative focusing on workforce development, innovation and building research and supplier networks to help Indiana’s automotive companies grow. Indiana’s automotive industry is the second largest in the U.S., employing more than 500,000 Hoosiers and producing almost $10 billion in goods each year.

The innovative partnership between Purdue and Chrysler highlights the benefits of collaboration between higher education and industry. It gives Chrysler access to the world-class research and engineering expertise of Purdue, while providing real-world, hands-on experience to Purdue students. That experience is a unique opportunity for students to develop the high-tech skills companies like Chrysler need today and in the future.

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