Survey: Student interest in manufacturing lacking

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new survey said Indiana has a major need for manufacturing jobs, but there aren’t enough students interested in the field.

The 2017 Indiana Manufacturing Survey also talked about how companies in Indiana are investing more money to support more advanced manufacturing.

It’s a field vital to the Hoosier economy.

“It’s nearly a $100 billion piece of Indiana’s GDP (gross domestic product),” said Mark Frohlich, a professor with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, who helped put together this study.

He said high-paying, entry-level jobs are out there, sometimes with annual salaries in the six figures, but the state said thousands of manufacturing jobs are out there without people qualified to fill the posts.

The job “requires at least a couple years of technical training, something beyond what you would get in high school,” Frolich said.

Many students still think of manufacturing as a rough and tough, smoke and dirt filled career.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said, “This is not your grandpa’s factory floor anymore.”

But still, Frohlich said, companies are expanding and investing in their plant’s facilities.

“Products are getting smarter, the automation the machinery that’s getting automated is smarter, but you need workers to go along with that too,” the professor said.

At an Indiana Manufacturing Association luncheon, the governor said there needs to be a push to educate kids at a young age.

Holcomb said he learned on his recent trip to Japan that fifth-graders are touring nearby factory plants.

“They’re exposing kids at a very early age about cool jobs that are right across the street, so we have to do that as business owners ourselves,” he said.

The governor also talked about the Next Level Jobs initiative, the state’s new grant program to pay for people to go back to school and get re-trained for high-demand job industries, including manufacturing.