Can’t Find Workers? Make them.

Can’t Find Workers? Make them.

Lately as many companies have run into a wall trying to find candidates to fill their job openings, the industry has begun applying its inventive traditions to the problem. Since they can’t find quality applicants, they’re making them using a unique national model that recently launched in Indiana.

Candidates are Needed Now

About half (48 percent) of Indiana manufacturing companies said they are planning to increase the number of jobs in their business as a result of growth in the market share of their products or the addition of new product lines. That’s according to the most recent Indiana Manufacturing Survey, which is authored by faculty from IU’s Kelley School of Business on the IUPUI campus.

Making things difficult is Indiana’s current historically low unemployment rate and the impending retirement age of a large portion of the manufacturing labor force. About 27 percent of manufacturing workers are set to retire over the next ten years, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The industry, in general, also seems to have a difficult time appealing to young people for recruitment endeavors. Almost 81 percent of Indiana firms say they have problems recruiting young people into manufacturing.

When the companies were asked about who should be the driving force behind manufacturing workforce development, over two-thirds of them said it should be employers themselves. That sentiment helped bring a new version of a national training model to the Hoosier state.


Near the beginning of the year, an employer-driven education initiative was launched here to build on the state’s efforts to help students pursue careers and technical education.

The initiative is called the Indiana Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (INFAME). It will coordinate regional manufacturers and educational institutions to implement dual-track learning that includes both classwork and hands-on training. When students complete the course, they will earn an associate degree that can move seamlessly to a bachelor’s degree program and will also have two years of relevant, paid job experience that they can take immediately to the workplace. In short, they’ll be essentially what employers have been looking to find.

“This initiative allows those of us in manufacturing to have direct input on developing the skills we need in our future employees,” said Matt Linville, human resources director at Zimmer Biomet, and board member with both Indiana Manufacturers Association (IMA) and INFAME.

The structure of the initiative was developed from the FAME model, which is currently used by organizations in nine other states. In Indiana, local FAME chapters will give businesses the chance to work on education programs that fit the needs of their company. Higher education partners such as Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University will provide tailored associate degree programs that will allow students to move into bachelor’s degree programs if they choose.

“The FAME program has a track record of developing a pipeline of the highly skilled workers who are excellent problem solvers and creating opportunities for participants to jumpstart their careers,” said Millie Marshall, president of Toyota Manufacturing Indiana. Toyota has partnered with the IMA in launching the FAME model.

INFAME will start by offering an Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program. The AMT curriculum includes technical skills such as electricity, fluid power, motor controls, maintenance of industrial equipment, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), welding, machining, drawings, robotics and troubleshooting.

But, importantly, much-needed soft skills are also built into the program. One could evaluate the needs of employers from almost any industry and come across significant demand for skills such as attendance, communication, innovation, teamwork, and interpersonal relations. All of which are part of INFAME.

In addition to classwork, students will get practical work experience at an area manufacturer. AMT also teaches students safety culture, workplace organization, lean manufacturing, machinery maintenance, reliability, and problem solving. In the future, employers who participate in the program can tailor educational programs to their specific needs.

Can-Do and Will-Do

With that can-do spirit of creation that manufacturers have always had, companies in Indiana have turned their search for workers into something more similar to an assembly line. They’re not going to wait around anymore, they’re going to do what they do best – make things. This time around, they’re making careers and candidates. Now, with greater influence and input, companies can shape the skills of their teams rather than search for them.

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