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Showing How A ‘Customized’ Apprentice Program At A ‘Forward-Thinking’ Community College ‘Can Help’ Production Employers ‘Address Key’ Talent Issues

Published Monday, June 15, 2020
by Doug LeDuc/
Showing How A ‘Customized’ Apprentice Program At A ‘Forward-Thinking’ Community College ‘Can Help’ Production Employers ‘Address Key’ Talent Issues

(FORT WAYNE, INDIANA) - Steel Dynamics, Incorporated (SDI) is about to show how a customized Apprentice Program at a forward-thinking community college can help production employers address key talent issues.

For the past two years, a dozen SDI Employees have participated in an Industrial Technology Apprentice Program at Ivy Tech Community College that has been tailored to meet specific training requirements of the Fort Wayne-based steelmaker.

The Fort Wayne campus graduated the SDI Program’s first cohort last month with Associate of Applied Science degrees and they have transitioned into specialized Electrical or Mechanical Mill Technician roles the company describes as challenging and well-paid.

“Steel Dynamics developed this program because there is an on-going need for mechanical and electrical expertise in our operations,” Staci Beiswanger, the company’s Employee Development Manager, said in a news release.

The program “is a great way for a motivated individual to gain additional technical skills while earning a wage.  Ivy Tech has been a great partner who was highly flexible and helped us develop a custom program to fit our company’s needs,” she said.

The Fort Wayne campus of Ivy Tech made its customizable Apprentice Program available to industrial employers in the region - partly to help them address talent shortages in high-skilled positions, said Darrel Kesler, who serves as the Dean of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering and Applied Science and Information Technology.

“The old paradigm was they called up Ivy Tech, they have a list of people who are graduating from a program and they see if they can interview those guys,” he said. “That paradigm is falling apart because we just don’t have enough people who are qualified graduating from the programs.”

Fewer people have entered production-related training programs in recent years because many parents, Teachers and Career Counselors have an outdated notion that manufacturing is dirty and dangerous, Kesler said.

“The fact of the matter is, they’re wrong, they’re just flat-out wrong,” he said. “The technology that’s being used in industry today is changing rapidly and so we need people that are willing to be able to think and keep up.”

SDI and other production employers in the region are addressing the shortage by educating and training individuals already in that line of work.

They look to up-skill bright Employees with a strong work ethic and an aptitude for trouble shooting and problem solving.

Electrical Apprentice Justin Hart was in the first cohort of SDI Employees that recently graduated from the program: “I was originally hired November 2017 in the shipping department as a Haul Truck Driver and I wanted to advance in the company.  When I heard about the Apprenticeship Program, I decided that was the best way I could get where I wanted to be,” he said in the news release.

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