Vincennes University is partnering with New Jersey-based AmeriCrew to train military veterans for infrastructure careers focusing on 5G wireless, fiber and clean energy. AmeriCrew is developing the National Infrastructure Technician Academy at VU’s campus in Vincennes and other sites statewide. “Our vision is to create this whole platform where transitioning military and underemployed veterans, as well as guard and reservists, can not just find jobs but careers in infrastructure and eventually get field leadership positions,” said AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Dunne said Vincennes is an ideal partner for the academy.
“You have to have an education partner to do the training and certification,” said Dunne. “It’s this really unique hybrid value chain where a company and an employer is working hand in hand with the education partner whether it’s an up-front certification or helping them work side-by-side with your education partner for a two-year or four-year degree. And what we’ve found in looking all over the country is Vincennes is one of the best around at this.”
The partners will collaborate to integrate training, certification and apprenticeship into the program with a mix of classroom, training lab and field work experience.
Dunne says they will work to identify the skill sets and certifications needed by the participants that could lead into a job or apprenticeship. He says the main goal is to get participants the certifications they need to get them working as quickly as possible, then continue comprehensive learning to progress through their career.
“So, it could be as short as six months, as long as 24 months where they’re ‘earn while you learn,’ so they’re working and they’re getting their skills and certifications at the same time and in many times, leveraging their GI Bill benefits. The second piece is all the professional and personal development that needs to take place as part of the transition.”
David Tucker, vice president of workforce development and community services at VU, says the university’s history of supporting active duty service members and veterans makes it an ideal candidate to host the academy.
“When you talk about infrastructure, we also have a lot of training and experience along those lines,” said Tucker. “A couple of areas that we do a great deal of training in are related to these infrastructure technician jobs. One is construction, and we have over 1,000 construction apprentices that are enrolled with VU each year statewide. The other is the technology itself, and so we train hundreds of automation and robotics technicians every year.”
Tucker says participants will also be able to utilize a residence hall on the Vincennes campus that is designated for adult learners.
“These students on the one hand are going to be corporate trainees in some ways. They’ll be in class and doing their lab work and doing their field work and then transitioning out to on-the-job training. But they’ll get a student experience, and we think that’s really important.”
Tucker adds the program could also lead to participants deciding to further their education, something AmeriCrew has seen in the past.
“We think that this is a great opportunity for Hoosiers that are coming back after their military service to get into training, get on a great job and pursue a college path, and for those veterans who aren’t from Indiana that are coming here, hopefully we’ll be able to keep them here and get them in good jobs and get them to college degrees as well.”
AmeriCrew is also partnering with its anchor fiber build-out customer, Mainstream Fiber Networks in Nashville, Ind., which has committed to providing jobs in an effort to scale the program.
The partners detailed plans in March to add 275 miles of fiber installation for new broadband projects and expansions in existing Mainstream service areas.
Dunne says the program could serve as a model for other areas in Indiana and throughout the country.