Chrysler has announced a multi-million dollar investment that will bring hundreds of new jobs to Central Indiana, but it will need help finding enough qualified workers to make it a reality.
The automaker has committed to investing $374 million in order to expand its transmission manufacturing. According to Chrysler, it will also create 1,200 new job openings in Howard and Tipton Counties.
“Today, we prove again that our past and our future is manufacturing in the state of Indiana,” said Indiana Governor Mike Pence during the announcement on Thursday.
But as Indiana manufacturing moves into the future, Chrysler will have to work harder to fill the hundreds of jobs it’s promising.
“There’s not people readily available for these positions,” said Jeff Griffin, Director of the College of Technology at Purdue Kokomo.
Griffin said many people don’t realize Chrysler’s new transmission plants are more advanced than ever before. He said roughly half of the 1,200 new jobs will likely require some sort of advanced training.
“I think it’s a big problem for these companies when they want to expand,” Griffin said. “It’s hard to find these people. It’s not something people have been taught all along.”
Purdue is busy preparing to address that skills gap. They’ve already added a new faculty member for Mechanical Engineering Technology in Kokomo.
“Because of this announcement we’re revitalizing that program and updating it to meet more of (Chrysler’s) needs,” Griffin said.
Meeting the demand for those advanced manufacturing jobs won’t be easy. Griffin said it will take similar efforts from Ivy Tech and Indiana University Kokomo, to help prepare future employees specializing in everything from business to quality control.
“So it’s really a team that comes together to help a company like this,” Griffin said.
It’s a partnership all parties are invested in.
“I know that the jobs we are creating, with the support of state and local governments, will play an important role in boosting the area`s economy,” said Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.
“When the workforce is educated, everybody wins,” Griffin said.
The College of Engineering at Purdue University has also been in talks with Chrysler on a research partnership related to the manufacturing expansion. Details are still being discussed.