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3/19/2012 10:51:00 AM
North central Indiana manufacturers seeking skilled workers

Jason M. Rodriguez, Pharos-Tribune News Editor

Plant manager Mike Englert knows it’s time for A. Raymond Tinnerman to find younger, qualified workers.

The average employee at the plant is 57 years old, he said, and 45 percent of its nearly 100 skilled workers will reach retirement age in the next five to 10 years.

“We’re going to be in trouble,” Englert said Friday at a technology roundtable at the Ivy Tech Logansport campus. Englert was part of a panel of professionals faced with bridging the education gap of the area’s work force.

There is no shortage of applicants, Englert said, recalling a six-hour open application period drawing 400 applications.

“One of the things we look for is discipline,” he said of the hiring process. “We also need people who can work together.”

John Bawcum, human resources manager at Braun Corp., and Bob Hoffman, director of training and safety at Rochester Metals, were also panelists in the discussion. Asking questions of the panelists was Jan Bailey, executive director of Ivy Tech’s Corporate Campus.

Hoffman said Rochester Metals used temporary hiring agencies to find employees.

“Industrial maintenance is probably the hardest position to fill,” he said, adding the company looks for those with a hunger to learn. He also finds that when an employee is hired, his company’s leadership is often charged with teaching “soft skills,” like how employees would talk with each other and their bosses.

“You don’t just teach them how to do their job, you teach them how to live their life,” Hoffman said.

Bawcum said Braun was constantly accepting applications and even implemented a “grow your own” employee apprenticeship program that has helped with recruiting and retaining employees.

“Give me an employee with a good attitude and I can teach them just about anything, sometimes with the help of Ivy Tech,” Bawcum said.

Bailey said Ivy Tech is working with area manufacturers to address their concerns. One example was last fall when the college offered certified production technician training for those seeking one of the 94 new positions at Federal-Mogul.

Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, was the keynote speaker, and he said the need for training would continue to grow. More than 70 percent of the 250 new business leads the region received in 2011 were in manufacturing, he said.

He said it is important for employers to show value to those types of classes by requiring their new staff members to attend schooling. Tidd said elementary and high schools needed to let students know that the manufacturing industry was a viable career choice.

“Manufacturing is the backbone of Indiana,” Tidd said. “It’s the backbone of the north central Indiana region.”

And the timing of recruiting younger, qualified employees is more important than ever. Tinnerman has an employee who is 82 years old, Englert said.

“They may not have the spring in their step when they were 21,” he said, “but they have the knowledge.”

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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