Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver says the county’s gotten $250,000 towards the cost of equipment for an automation technology and equipment maintenance program. “This is a huge step towards our program,” Weaver says. “Our total program cost of equipment is $450,000, and so, the $250,000 is a great start towards that.”
The program will be offered at the SCILL Center and will be available to people from other area counties, as well. Before applying for the grant, the SCEDF had surveyed manufacturers in Starke, Pulaski, Marshall, and LaPorte counties to figure out what skills were needed most. According to Weaver, the local industries were most in need of people to take care of the latest automation and robotics equipment and who have hands-on experience working with it. He says the new program will give workers those skills, “It’s hands-on training, so that when this adult worker, whether they’re unemployed or they’re underemployed or they’re currently employed, whatever, they can go through this training, and they will be able to, after the training, go into the plant and actually repair automated equipment, industrial equipment of all types. So, they will have some book learning, but mostly it’s hands-on.”
Weaver says they’re already in the process of organizing the program. “We expect to have this program up and going this next summer,” Weaver says. “We know we’ve got the money now to get that equipment. We’ve been working locally with Alex Weisheit of our board and putting this program together. We’re working with Ivy Tech to provide instruction.”
Starke County was one of the eight that received the grants through OCRA’s Workforce Development Program, which is funded by the federal Community Development Block Grant.