A local organization dedicated to improving the skills of the labor force in Starke County and the surrounding areas has received a bit of a boost.
Representatives from the Gene Haas Foundation appeared in Knox on Friday to present a check in the amount of $5-thousand. The funds will be used to help support the development and implementation of a training program at the SCILL Center for students and adults in automation, robotics, and equipment maintenance.
Starke County Economic Development Foundation Special Projects Coordinator Ron Gifford says they were recently notified of the grant award.
“We’re excited about, not only launching the program, but what it could mean for – not only the citizens of this county – but those that adjoin us,” says Gifford. “Their folks can obtain additional training and take well paying positions within those industries. So we are excited about that program.”
The grant will be paired with other commitments, including $250-thousand from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, and a $100-thosuand grant from the Indiana Department of Education. The Knox TIF Fund has also pledged $100-thousand.
The Gene Haas Foundation has been tasked with improving access to manufacturing education in the form of grants and scholarships. According to the foundation, more than 1,200 charitable donations have been made.
Jeff Holtzapple is a Vice President and General Manager for the factory outlet in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. He says things have become easier when creating matches between the foundation and the organizations supporting the educational programs.
“We have a robust HTEC (Haas Educational Training Centers) program where many schools use our machines and we will get the word out that way,” says Holtzapple. “But for quite a while after the foundation started, money was just sitting there. Again, we can’t do the work for the schools and institutions and organizations, they have to do it themselves.”
Despite working as a charitable gift, there is an aspect involved that addresses what is commonly referred to as the “skills gap” in manufacturing. By training the workforce with machining and manufacturing skills, the grants look to play their part when attempting to fill projections of about 2-million jobs over the next decade.