Manufacturers, Higher Ed Institutions, State Officials, and Non-Profits Collaborate on ‘The Future of Work in Delaware County’   

An initial planning meeting was recently held to discuss how to use Mad/Jax and its educational partners for training and youth development in Muncie and Delaware County. Photo provided.An initial planning meeting was recently held to discuss how to use Mad/Jax and its educational partners for training and youth development in Muncie and Delaware County. Photo provided.

By: Corey Sharp, Purdue Polytechnic—

Muncie, IN—As Purdue Polytechnic prepares to expand its footprint by providing courses in Muncie’s Mad/Jax facility, initial efforts are underway to explore how shared space and programming in the facility could benefit K-12 students, college students, manufacturers, and non-profit organizations.

With manufacturers concerned about the lack of skilled workers who possess the technical training needed to fill high-demand, high-wage jobs, interest in investing in the current and future workforce has never been stronger.

Representatives of five major manufacturers, Ivy Tech Community College, Ball State University, Purdue Polytechnic, the Muncie-Delaware Chamber of Commerce, and several non-profits met on June 26 in the state-of-the art Robotics Lab at Mad/Jax. Attendees learned about Purdue’s future programming in the downtown Muncie facility and about opportunities to collaborate.

Envisioned are a shared “makers lab” with tools and equipment accessible to students, manufacturers, and the public; specialized job training targeted to meet the individual needs of area manufacturers particularly as relates to engineering and skilled technical positions; comprehensive K-12 STEAM programming and expansion of robotics programming that prepares students for advanced technology careers; and efforts to increase the number of pre-service teachers choosing the technology/engineering teaching track, among other initiatives.

A number of high-ranking state officials also joined the meeting including Teresa Lubbers, Commissioner of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education; Blair Milo, Secretary of Career Connections and Talent; PJ McGrew, Director of Policy for the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet; and Josh Richardson, Chief of Staff of Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Representatives from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors were enthusiastic about the possibilities for collaboration with early indications that local manufacturers are interested in exploring the development of a shared training facility as a first step.  Ball State University already operates several academic programs inside Mad/Jax and recognizes the potential for re-imagining K-12 STEAM training. Ivy Tech and Purdue are in the early phases of discussing opportunities to work together to meet the needs of local manufacturers.