The Steuben County Community Foundation is awarding a $20,000 Impact Grant to nonprofit Easterseals RISE in Angola to support a pre-manufacturing academy. The academy, which is being created in conjunction with the Steuben County Economic Development Corp., will prepare students for employment in the manufacturing industry by partnering with local employers.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Steuben County EDC Director of Workforce Development Mike Landram says the academy is an educational collaboration intended to provide students with early access to workforce development and technical skills in the manufacturing industry.
According to the EDC, one-third of the county’s workforce population is in manufacturing. Meanwhile, the organization says half of the county’s annual high school graduates do not pursue post-secondary education, instead choosing to enter directly into the workforce.
“Its probably going to be more meaningful in the short-term to connect with the students that aren’t going to go on to a post-secondary education pathway,” said Landram. “They typically fall into service, retail, hospitality. The pandemic has crushed the hospitality industry.”
Landram says the academy offers an additional option for young people seeking a development pathway.
“The manufacturing industry here in Steuben County is our largest employer,” said Isaac Lee, Steuben County EDC executive director. “The Pre-Manufacturing Academy is designed to increase the number of qualified applicants entering the manufacturing industry.”
Landram says academy participants will proactively seek out manufacturers that are willing and interested in sponsoring a student. From there, the students will progress to an interview process before beginning work with manufacturers.
The program will include periodic check-ins, site visits, and will focus on both technical and interpersonal skills.
The EDC says it is planning to run three academy sessions per year. A spring and fall session will tie into the school year as an afterschool program, and a summer session will be open to area adults and recent graduates.
Easterseals RISE, which serves young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is planning to assess students to determine their interests, skills and any accommodations needed to prepare for instruction at its on-site learning lab. After the assessment, the nonprofit says students interested in pursuing employment in manufacturing will transition to the academy at the EDC.
Upon completing the program, the EDC says students will be certified and can work with their manufacturing sponsors to pursue further employment.
Landram discusses the program’s planning process and intent of the EDC’s pre-manufacturing academy.