Closing skills gap in central Indiana receives boost

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Central Indiana residents and manufacturing companies will receive a boost in 2015, thanks to a new training center that will be under construction this fall in Lebanon.

Ground was broken July 26 for the Gene Haas Training and Education Center in the Lebanon Industrial Park, located adjacent to I-65. The 20,000 square foot facility is planned to open in August 2015, immediately providing training to close a skills gap for machinists needed by manufacturers in central Indiana.

“We have to look to the future and we need a trained workforce. And this is the perfect way to do it,” said Lebanon Mayor Huck Lewis. “Also, we see this as an economic development tool. Hopefully, we are drawing other businesses in that need this kind of training.”

Representatives of the Gene Haas Foundation presented a check to Mayor Lewis for $1.5 million to support the development of the Center. Gene Haas, founder and president of American machine tool builder Haas Automation, said that local government should be commended for opening new opportunities for area residents.

“It is great to see that a town like this has the vision to educate its kids about manufacturing because there are very, very good jobs that pay very, very well,” Haas said. “Everything you buy or touch, there has been a manufacturer involved in it. The United States is huge manufacturer.”

David Tucker, vice president for Vincennes University Workforce Development and Community Services, said that VU is proud to be the provider for education and training at the new Center.

“The day this facility opens in about one year, we anticipate that the very first class will be our CNC Machinist Now program. It is a 16-week training program, designed primarily for veterans, to go from having no experience in machining or manufacturing and 16 weeks later, after 600 hours of training, coming out as entry-level machinists,” said Tucker.

Tucker said VU has achieved 100 percent placement for veterans participating in the program at its Vincennes Campus.

“We have machine shops that have a very significant need for skilled machinists and it seems to make sense to offer this program to meet that need,” said Tucker.

Chad Pittman, executive vice president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, said that the Gene Haas Training and Education Center will help fulfill the Governor’s vision for workforce training and development.

“We can assure you that everywhere there is a Vincennes University, the entire region is lifted with the type of workforce they help produce,” Pittman said.

Lebanon Community School Corporation Superintendent Robert Taylor said there are many students who will benefit from the Haas Center.

“What they will contribute as a result of their training, education and experience is truly incredible,” said Taylor. He thanked the three partners for their vision in making the Center possible.

Calling the groundbreaking an historic day for Lebanon, Mayor Lewis said planning has been underway for the past two years.

“The partnership is really unbelievable, with Vincennes, I’ve known about its tool & die work for years and years and years. And then to have Haas step in and especially to give us a grant for $1.5 million, is just unbelievable. The partnership has been fantastic and it will continue,” said Mayor Lewis.

VU will operate the Center, using the latest state-of-the-art Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine tools from Haas Automation, and Metalworking Skills (NIMS).

Doug Bowman, director of VU’s Haas Technical Education Center in Vincennes, developed the curriculum that will be used in Lebanon.

“Among the world of training and education in advanced manufacturing, he is our rock star,” Tucker said. Bowman has been an instructor in the machining field since 1984.

Great opportunities await graduates at Lebanons Haas Center, according to a VU alumnus of the program. Ben Gordon graduated from VU’s Advanced

Manufacturing program in 2009 and is now a sales representative in Ohio for Haas.

“There are phenomenal opportunities for graduates. They are endless. The possibilities for a student to come out and do incredible things – anywhere from automotive to medical. I¹ve made spinal implants for companies,” Gordon said.

Bowman says that Indiana will need 7,000 new machinists over the next five years.

“Providing this high-quality training on state-of-the-art equipment will help bridge the advanced manufacturing skills gap,” said Bowman.

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