Starke County officials are applying for one of eight state grants to set up a job skills training program for local adults. Starke County Economic Development Foundation Executive Director Charlie Weaver recently spoke to the commissioners about the need for such an initiative.
“The idea is that workers who are currently employed but are not utilizing the potential they have, or workers who are unemployed and seeking new skills, the goal was to find a program that could train them.”
Each grant is worth up to $250,000. Economic development officials surveyed local employers to determine their most pressing workforce needs and said it is industrial equipment maintenance. Weaver says it’s a very sophisticated, high-skilled field.
“People don’t realize it, but we have factories now that have robots in place doing things. Someone’s got to maintain those robots. Someone’s got to do it, and there’s just not enough people who know enough electronics who know enough electricity, enough about compression and everything else to do the jobs. And everyone of these companies that’s been their number-one priority is also typically their number-one salary.”
Weaver adds Starke County’s workforce needs to be prepared for the automation wave of the future by making sure automation technicians with troubleshooting abilities are available at all times.
The Starke County Economic Development Foundation also wants to add an automation and robotics program to the list of high school vocational offerings. However the state grant they are seeking will only cover the adult program. Weaver told the county commissioners other grant funds are available to offer the program to high school students as well.