I-Light member spotlight: Vincennes University

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High unemployment rates have many college students worried about finding work after graduation. I-Light member Vincennes University (VU) hopes to make it easier for students to compete in the workplace by emphasizing the importance of learning technical skills through vocational education.

According to a 2011 report by The Manufacturing Institute, 83 percent of companies face a shortage of trained production workers to fill skilled positions. VU helps close the skills gap—one of Indiana’s greatest needs— through intensive labor programs specifically related to advanced manufacturing. Since 90 to 95 percent of VU students work in Indiana after graduation, its vocational programs provide a direct boost to the state economy.

This fall, VU will launch the Toyota Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (TAMTP). The two-year associates degree program will combine academic coursework with on-the-job experience. Each week TAMTP students will spend three days in the classroom and two days working at Toyota.

Students will develop practical skills in areas such as electricity, mechanics, robotics, and lean manufacturing, while earning money at the same time. With a starting rate of $17 per hour, Toyota will compensate students for on-site work. Program participants are also eligible for scholarships worth up to $500 per semester.

After a similar partnership with the University of Kentucky, Toyota hired 19 out of the 20 enrolled students. However, hope is not lost for students who do not receive a full-time offer after graduation. The program helps students develop a technical skill set that will make them highly sought after by manufacturers around the state.

Once hired, VU believes that education must continue. That’s why the university provides ongoing training courses for manufacturing companies’ employees. These specialized courses help workers learn a new skill or advance an existing expertise as technology changes.