New Trine center seeks to bridge industrial skills gap

Jacob Bradshaw, right, guides Trine student Grant Teller in operating an industrial robot.
Jacob Bradshaw, right, guides Trine student Grant Teller in operating an industrial robot.(Dean Orewiler / Trine University)
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 4:34 PM EDT
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ANGOLA, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) - Trine University in Angola has launched the Trine Center for Technical Training (TCTT) with the goal of assisting industrial companies in northeast Indiana in meeting the need for skilled workers.

The center is designed to help students and existing workers earn certifications in industrial maintenance and automation, as well as project management, network management and other areas.

“We looked at how we could continue to create a pathway for education, and our new [center] is really creating that bridge between industry and their needs,” said Jason Blume, executive director of Trine Innovation 1.

In an interview with Inside Indiana Business, Blume said the center is part of an effort to provide credentialing and certificates in addition to traditional degrees.

“Our main focus is industrial automation and maintenance,” said Blume. “We’re really looking at certificate-based learning. We have partnered with SACA – the Smart Automation Certification Alliance – to look at those credentials and micro-credentials that are really what industry’s asking for that technician and general production worker.”

Trine says participants can earn associate and specialist certification from SACA as well as certification in areas such as Lean Six Sigma-Green Belt and Certified Quality Engineer.

Blume says the company has made investments in state-of-the-art training equipment from Jeffersonville-based Amatrol, Fanuc America in Michigan, and Wisconsin-based Rockwell Automation.

The TCTT, Trine says, will include skills training in machine operation, electrical, hydraulics, pneumatics, mechanical drives, PLC programming and operation, relay controls, sensors and smart manufacturing.

Blume says after speaking with industry leaders, the need for skills beyond a bachelor’s degree and more industrial training became apparent.

“And when I say ‘beyond,’ for every one of the bachelor’s degree graduates that our partners are hiring, they need five, 10 or greater certificate or technically trained individuals,” he said. “When I worked in manufacturing, I had outstanding engineers and automation engineers, but I always knew that I relied on my automation technicians and maintenance technicians to keep the automation and machines running, and that’s what this bridge is.”

The center will provide training on the Angola campus, along with an online component. Blume says the university also plans to create a mobile option where students can be on-site at a company’s facility to undergo training.

Blume says the TCTT creates a win-win for workers who can advance their careers and earn higher wages, while businesses that can provide employees with critical skills.

The center will be led by Jacob Bradshaw, a former associate professor of advanced automation and robotics technology at Ivy Tech Community College.

Bradshaw has held multiple roles at companies such as Automation Engineering in Fort Wayne and T.I. Automotive in Ossian, and he also co-owns North Manchester-based automation contracting and consulting company BCI Automation.

“[He has] just a number of connections to industry so that we can continue to listen and mold and drive our program,” said Blume “We don’t want to just say, ‘Hey, we’re going to offer this program and that’s what we’re going to offer.’ What we want to offer is what industry really needs. If they say they need “brand X” equipment, we can explore that.”

Blume says Trine is already looking at expanding the program to other areas such as networking, professional development and other areas that could complement a bachelor’s degree and upskill students and workers.

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