Thousands of high school students train for Elkhart's RV industry
ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. - “Right now I’m at Stout Co. which, a lot of the stuff they do is for the RV industry. That’s kind of what’s going on here,” said Isaac Hruby, a student in Precision Machining class.
17 and skilled. Isaac Hruby may look like your average Elkhart teen, but he’s making strides working with thousands of pounds of heavy machinery.
He’s one of thousands of students across Elkhart County being trained for the RV industry which is currently facing a major worker shortage.
“With recreational vehicle and manufacturing housing industry on such an uptick in our area, many of them came to us and said we need employees with a particular skill set,” said Matt Werbianski, Principal at Elkhart Area Career Center.
Machining, welding, small engines and automotive are just a few to name. The Elkhart area career center knows its students are up next in the workplace. So, the center is playing a key role in helping shape that work force by giving students hands-on training day in and day out.
“The shortage is a very real problem, we hear that from our business partners all the time; and not only the shortage but we become more and more automated in manufacturing,” said Brandon Eakins, Incoming Principal at EACC.
The career center also helps students with resumes, cover letters, mock interviews, and finally, the real pitch. Students recently got the chance to showcase their skills at a job fair.
“More than one business partner said ‘ this is the first time I’ve ever had a teenager hand me a resume,” said Jackie O’Hara, Career Coordinator at Elkhart Area Career Center.
“Having that head start, by understanding how to use micrometers, how to use calipers, how to run a mill, how to use a lave, and kind of having that basic knowledge. That’s the best way to learn because you can only learn so much from the projects in the book,” said Hruby.
The Horizon Education Alliance is also working to connect multi-billion dollar RV companies with Elkhart County students.
“A number of manufacturers and business leaders who will come to us and say we would like to talk to educators about the necessary skills to be successful in our businesses,” said Dr. Jason Harrison, Director of Student and Adult Pathways, Horizon Education Alliance.
The non-profit works with business and school leaders to make sure student training lines up with the future of the industry.
“We have to be looking forward, 5 years, 10 years down the road and automation is likely to continue. We don’t know how fast it will happen and in the RV industry, again we don’t know, but more and more robots are coming into the workspace and that really relies on a workforce being ready,” said Brian Wiebe, Executive Director, Horizon Education Alliance.
The key focus for everyone is the future.
“What will it be like in 2030? I think we have the ability to think long term like that and prepare students with those skills,” said Wiebe.
The Elkhart Area Career Center says it helped place 145 students into paid internships last year and by working with organizations, like the Horizon Education Alliance that number is expected to be even larger this year and for years to come.