Externships good both for students, manufacturers

Employers in today’s manufacturing industry have specific needs for their workers that require skills more advanced than in previous decades. An important part of meeting employers’ needs is making sure potential workers understand what opportunities exist in manufacturing, and what they must know to land a job.

That’s why an externship program for Bartholomew County educators who teach in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields is an important facilitator in that effort.

The program helps educators understand the manufacturing industry by providing tours of local companies and opportunities to talk with company employees. Educators then take what they learned and convey it to students, to make sure they are informed about the current state of the industry and are well prepared for careers in manufacturing.

Last year six educators toured three companies: Caltherm, Cummins Inc. and NTN Driveshaft. This year the program expanded to 12 educators and five companies — as Dorel Juvenile and Faurecia were added.

The tours helped the educators learn about education requirements, wages for manufacturing jobs, opportunities for advancement, factory layouts and flows, the type of work apprentices do and soft skills that are important, for example.

A $1.8 million grant from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development through the SkillUp! grant program to the EcO Regional Advanced Manufacturing Network, which sponsors the externship program, made the expansion possible.

The expanded externship increased the variety of educators reached — as high school teachers and counselors, and college professors were included — which will help spread critical job information to students at multiple education levels and in various ways. That’s beneficial to students and for manufacturing companies.

Educators and companies who have participated in the externship program are helping it serve a valuable purpose — one that is worth continuing in the future.