TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - They were once known as the dirty, backbreaking and low-paying jobs.
But things have changed in the manufacturing business, and many of these jobs have become high-tech and high-salaried.
In part one of a News 18 special report, Krista Henery digs deeper to find that hundreds of manufacturing jobs are available in the Lafayette area, but employers aren't finding people with the skills they need to fill the gap.
The old days of the boom-and-bust, labor intensive, blue-collar manufacturing jobs have passed.
"Many people still think that it's the kind of dirty job where you work many hours and you don't get paid a lot of money," President and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce Joe Seaman said.
In fact, Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski and Seaman said the majority of manufacturing jobs in this region these days are anything but the old-fashioned, rust-belt jobs.
"Those are good-paying jobs," Roswarski said. "They are jobs with benefits. They are jobs people can make careers out of."
"It's not the job that mom and dad had back in the 40s and 50s," Seaman said. "This is a job now that requires skilled training."
The Greater Lafayette area is home to dozens of manufacturers, both big and small. City leaders said it's these businesses that are the backbone to the local economy.
Executive Director of the Corporate College at Ivy Tech Craig Lamb said every month more companies are on-shoring and insourcing, bringing production facilities and jobs back to America.
"For the last three years, there has been no industry in Indiana or in our region that has been creating those kind of jobs at a faster rate or in larger numbers than manufacturing," Lamb said.
"Boy, we do have jobs," Seaman explained. "We have had jobs now for almost two years."
It's true that many manufacturing companies are bringing jobs back home and building right in our own backyard as they race to meet increasing demand, off-set higher transportation costs and address quality concerns.
But these jobs aren't necessarily ones any job seeker can just walk into. Nor, somewhat surprisingly, are there crowds of qualified people clamoring to fill the vacant slots.
"Now what we have to do is, the gage is shut, pull it apart and start the machine," Fairfield employee Mike Arnold explained as he set up a piece of equipment.
"Do we have the work force?" Roswarski asked. "And does that work force have the training and the skill set that these manufacturers need to be successful and to be competitive?"
"The number one priority we need to focus on is work-force readiness," President and CEO of Fairfield Manufacturing Gary Lehman said.
"The biggest challenge we've had is finding skilled labor to fill those jobs," Seaman added.
The problem is obvious. Employers said the facts simply spell out a skills gap.
While manufacturing is not in a state of terminal decline as some may think, as long as the jobs can't be filled with skilled workers there will be some state of uncertainty.
In part two of 'Blue-collar Comeback" News 18's Krista Henery talks to Greater Lafayette and Ivy Tech leaders, and manufacturing employers about how they've come together to offer free education to those who are interested in finding a job in manufacturing. Tune in to News 18 at 6 and 11 Thursday night for part two of this series.
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