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Ivy Tech skills program adds Martinsville location

By Ross Flint |
Saturday February 23, 2008


With the late January announcement that the Harman-Becker plant will begin a phaseout of its Martinsville operation in the spring, some 340 employees will be looking for new line of work in the next 12 to 14 months.

An Ivy Tech Community College non-credit program geared toward the life sciences that is now being offered in Martinsville could help by providing the necessary training.

"One of the things we've been dealing with is plant closures," said Brenda McLane, executive director of workforce and economic development at Ivy Tech. "Life science companies are saving lives. These companies are here to stay."

The program started Feb. 16 in Martinsville and has about 10 people enrolled in the first session. It offers two classes - Help In Reaching Employment (HIRE) and second one leading to a manufacturing readiness certificate (MRC).

Both of those classes are for unemployed or underemployed workers, McLane said. Participants receive a certificate of completion.

"This is kind of a first step to seeing if they want to further their education," she said.

The HIRE class teaches basic skills, including reading for information, applied math and locating information; computer skills, including being able to type 25 words per minute using Microsoft Word/Windows Operations, and using the Internet and e-mail; and a third set of what Ivy Tech officials call life/soft skills, including conflict resolution and overcoming customer service challenges. The life/soft skills includes taking a behavioral test called the "Dominant Influential Study Conscientious."

"Once they take that behavioral profile, it has changed some lives," McLane said. "People start thinking differently about how they act, what their opportunities could be, if they had a different outlook."

Ivy Tech is offering classes at 132 E. Washington St., Martinsville. Whereas the programs in Bloomington and Bedford take three to six weeks to complete, depending on educational background and the number of days classes take place, the Martinsville location offers classes only on Saturday and it takes six weeks to complete. To sign up for future classes, call Kayle Mena at 812-330-6225.

She said people with little background using a computer who are looking to change careers would especially benefit.

"In this day in age, you really have to have some sort of computer skills, no matter what you're going to do," she said.

The MRC part of the program is a simulation of what it's like to work at a regulated life sciences environment. It is a three-day class and talks about eliminating waste and adhering to good documentation and manufacturing practices, among other topics.

Martinsville is the third location for the program.

The program has been offered since January 2007 in Bloomington and Bedford through the Strategic Skills Initiative grant, which started under Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration. The money from that grant runs out June 30, and McLane said there is no guarantee that the same programs will be funded. Because of that, she said Ivy Tech wants to put as many people through the program as possible.

In the past, students in the program haven't always gone into the life sciences field.

Kayle Mena, program manager at Ivy Tech, said many of the skills learned are transferable into other areas of work. One former student found a job in customer service at Cook, a Bloomington-based company that develops health care devices.

"Even if they don't know if they'd like to work for a life science company, it would be worth their time to come," McLane said. "It's a broad audience that could benefit from this."

Doug May is the instructor in Martinsville. McLane said he is good with changing his students' assumptions and attitudes, but he's also supportive of people.

"It's because of good instructors like Doug that we've been successful with this program," she said.