Duke Energy contributes to Community Learning Center

Editor’s note: On Wednesday, Duke Energy donated $30,000 to the Huntington County Community Learning Center. (See photo at the end of this story.) Here’s a story the Herald-Press wrote in conjunction with that donation titled "Huntington Facing Skills Gap" and how the Learning Center will help fill it.

Source: Lucas Bechtol, Huntington Herald-Press, 7/16/14

Huntington is no different from the rest of the country in facing a skills gap that makes jobs go unfilled and may even turn away business because employers can’t find employees with the right credentials, according to Huntington County officials.

“Most of our major employers in Huntington County have openings available for skilled positions,” Mark Wickersham, executive director for the Huntington County Economic Development Corporation, said. “Some of those literally go unfilled because (employers) have trouble finding (skilled workers).”

He added he has read that employers regionally and nationally are losing opportunities for growth because they can’t find the necessary talent.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Work One Northeast, the Regional Opportunities Council and others are working on a “talent initiative” to help solve this problem, Wickersham said, adding many Huntington County businesses are helping with this effort.

“Additionally at the local level, through the chamber of commerce, the United Way, the school corporation, Ivy Tech, Work One Northeast and others, the effort is underway to fund and develop a vocational training center that will help local employers find opportunities for training,” he said.

Executive Director Steve Kimmel of the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce said the Huntington County Community Learning Center will be utilized by displaced workers and current workers.

“Whether you’re a student coming out of high school looking for some type of a credential or a degree or whether you’re a person who’s been laid off and your skills are no longer needed, you can actually go here and learn a new skill,” he said.

The Huntington County Community Learning Center is closer to its goal of expansion after a $30,000 donation from Duke Energy Wednesday morning.

“We are so excited to see this project move forward, it has the potential to do a lot of good for our community,” said Tiffanney Drummond, career and technical director for the Huntington County Community School Corporation who will also be the director of the center. “We are continuing to move forward.”

The plan is to add on to the current vocational technology building and add a variety of different classes to the curriculum for adults as well as students, Jenna Strick, executive director of the United Way of Huntington County and a member of the development team, said.

The expansion will allow Ivy Tech and Work One to have an expanded role in the community, with offices located at the center, she said.

“We think it’s important for the vocational center to have the employment aspect as part of it so not only can we train you, but we can help you pick up a job,” Strick said.

The training and classes offered at the center will vary, depending on the needs from the area.

“We’re currently in conversation with several of the local employers and regional employers to know how they would benefit as local employers in a center like this,” Strick said.

However, CNC machining and welding will definitely be skills that are taught at the center, she added.

Currently, there is around $800,000 in pledges to the project, Strick said. The total project is $1.3 million.

She said the goal is to complete the fundraising by the end of the year to have construction start next summer and start classes in the fall.

The vocational tech center will continue to be open until then and has started to gear up its adult programming for the transition by offering a welding class in the afternoon geared toward adults, Drummond said.

Kimmel said this learning center will be an attempt to close the skill gap.

“Huntington is no different than most other communities, not only in Indiana but across the nation, that are struggling to find people with the skills they need, especially manufacturing,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is bridge that gap.”

He added Huntington has a real need for welders, advance manufacturing skills and CNC operators. The learning center will also include training for certified nursing assistants and some automotive training.

PHOTO CAPTION  (Photo credit to Lucas Bechtol)
Duke Energy donated $30,000 to the Huntington County Community Learning Center Wednesday afternoon. From left are: Bill Petranoff, Steve Kimmel, Laura Sheets, John Niederman, Ed Vessels, Mark Wickersham, Karen Green, Tiffanney Drummond and Jenna Strick.