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Cummins and NTN Driveshaft are working with other companies to strengthen the state’s automotive manufacturing sector.
That includes taking steps such as offering more internships, more collaboration with schools and universities and by building centers for innovation.
Both companies are represented on the Indiana Automotive Council, which last week released a strategic plan to build on Indiana’s manufacturing prowess. The state’s automotive sector includes more than 600 companies that employ more than 120,000. The companies’ combined impact is $9 billion, according to the IAC.
The IAC said that for the state to continue to outperform its rivals, it must find ways to address needs for a qualified workforce, to better connect employers and schools and to focus more on innovation.
Bartholomew County’s unemployment rate in August, 5.5 percent, was about 2 percentage points below the state and national averages. Columbus businesses have said that they have an especially tough time hiring professional employees, including software and design engineers, mechanical engineering drafting technicians and maintenance technicians.
Jim Riggs, president of NTN Driveshaft, said many people graduate today without the proper math skills to perform technical work and without the proper social skills to work in groups.
The council, which includes regional manufacturers such as Aisin, Honda and Faurecia, said in a news release that it wants to achieve this by continuing to promote existing programs such as “Dream It. Do it.” This is through the nonprofit Conexus, which connects students with careers in advanced manufacturing and logistics.
To some extent, Riggs said, the industry also is battling a poor reputation. To confront that reputation, companies increasingly will invite young people to tour manufacturing plants, so that future workers can see that the plants are clean, modern and well-organized, and provide challenging and interesting jobs with good wages and benefits, Riggs said.
Barry Parkhurst, NTN’s vice president of administration, said companies also will work more closely with schools and universities to make sure that students know about available internships.
Stan Woszczynski, Cummins Inc.’s vice president for global supply chain and manufacturing, said he welcomed the council’s workforce initiatives, as Cummins has long focused — across the globe — on working with technical schools and colleges, including the Community Education Coalition in Columbus, to make sure that graduates have the right skills to help Cummins and other companies succeed.
“I’m very happy and excited to be part of this,” Woszczynski said.
Beyond workforce readiness, the council also wants to foster innovation and improve the state’s supply chain.
“The council is exploring the development of Centers of Innovation and Excellence as a means to drive more innovation,” according to the news release. “The centers would be driven by industry and focus on innovations that would answer industry-identified challenges.”
The Indiana Automotive Council also wants to identify gaps in the state’s supply chain and figure out how to attract more suppliers to Indiana.
Woszczynski said that simplifying and shortening the supply chain especially will help companies that have locations only in Indiana.
Woszczynski and Riggs commended the state’s public and private sectors for looking ahead to allow the state to retain its competitive edge.
“I think that Indiana is really at the forefront of this type of activity,” Riggs said. “I’ve worked in other states, and we weren’t really doing this.”
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