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$2.5 Million In Grants Will Help Regional Colleges Prepare Workers For Future Of Manufacturing

FILE PHOTO: Annie Ropeik/IPB News

A regional partnership has awarded almost $2.5 million in grants to colleges and universities throughout the South Bend-Elkhart area. 

Eight schools – including Ivy Tech Community College, Goshen College and Indiana University South Bend –  received grants to create programs in data science, industrial engineering and other fields that will grow as automation technology advances.


“Gone are the days where someone just stands on an assembly line and twists 180 degrees or manually moves something,” Leighton Johnson, director of education and workforce initiatives with the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership, said. “Certain jobs will go away but new jobs will be created, and those jobs are going to be robotics technicians, mechatronics mechanics, industrial production technicians.”


Some of the programs are traditional two and four-year courses meant to train new workers, but others are designed to offer industry credentials and certifications to people already working in manufacturing.


“A lot of the emphasis in the awards was on helping the incumbent workforce get new skills, create new capabilities that will allow them to evolve as jobs become more sophisticated,” Tom Fuja, faculty director of the University of Notre Dame’s iNDustry Labs, said.


The grants come from the LIFT Network’s Digital Skills Accelerator Fund, which is led by the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership and iNDustry Labs.


The colleges and universities received planning grants of $50,000 in August 2020, and submitted their program proposals in December. 


The grants are good for two years, but Fuja said LIFT leaders asked each school to demonstrate the sustainability of their program during the selection process.


“It’s not terribly helpful if you do something wonderful that goes away after two years,” he said. “We can sort of get them started, help them develop the resources necessary to get the program in effect, but the program ultimately needs to be self-sustaining if it’s going to be successful.”


The LIFT Network’s goal is to boost the economic vitality of the region’s manufacturing base. Fuja said improving the “digital maturity” of that base through higher education is key to that goal.


“As requirements for employment in manufacturing become more sophisticated, we want to make sure that the folks who live here and go to school here have the opportunity to get those great jobs,” he said.


(You can read a full list of the grant recipients below.)

Ancilla College will expand its AncillaWorks platform – A student-facing work-and-learn program – to include incumbent, adult workers who will be trained within the industry spaces of business analytics, logistics and supply chain. For this effort, Ancilla has been awarded a $100,000 Phase II grant.

Bethel University will launch a Digital Workforce Transformation Program that will develop talent aligned with mechanical engineering, information technology and data analytics via academic bootcamps and the modernization of the University’s engineering programs. Bethel has been awarded a $230,000 Phase II grant for this initiative.

Goshen College will develop a Digital Skills Accelerator Program that will build future and current workforce pipelines focused on business and information technology disciplines. They will also develop a new Information and Business Technology undergraduate degree program. For these initiatives, Goshen College has been awarded a $400,000 Phase II grant.

Holy Cross College will establish a new Computer Science undergraduate minor within Holy Cross College and offer non-degree certificate coding programs for non-computer science minors to incumbent and adult workers. For these programs, Holy Cross has been awarded a $200,000 Phase II grant.

Indiana University South Bend (IU South Bend) will develop a Digital Skills Pipeline Project to advance a K-12 STEM Summer Academy in collaboration with the Purdue Polytechnic Institute and a career exploration in healthcare technology targeting incumbent and non-incumbent workers. IUSB has been awarded a $350,000 Phase II grant for these initiatives.

Ivy Tech Community College, South Bend - Elkhart will expand and purchase new advanced manufacturing/industry 4.0-enabling training technology to be housed within the Ivy Tech Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Automation. Ivy Tech has been awarded a $300,000 Phase II grant to support this initiative.

Purdue Polytechnic Institute, South Bend will develop an Industry 4.0 Industry Advancement Certification and an industry-aligned incumbent worker training initiative, including the purchase of a LEAN training simulator and module sets that will facilitate key manufacturing and Industry 4.0 engineering and production efficiency competencies. For these initiatives, Purdue Polytechnic Institute has been awarded a $200,000 Phase II grant.

Saint Mary’s College will develop an Industry Credentialing Lab that will support talent development by creating a pipeline of skill-credentialed, industry-ready graduates within the South Bend - Elkhart regional workforce who will earn credentials alongside a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree available to students of every major and minor.  For these programs, Saint Mary’s has been awarded a $285,000 Phase II grant.

Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.