"The reality is that manufacturing is making a comeback not only in job availability, but a revolution in the type of work that is done within the manufacturing sector," Giromini said.
Ivy Tech Community College is working to try to help solve the job skills gap problem, said Matt Bell, president of the school's Corporate College. The college reorganized its traditional workforce and economic development efforts last September by creating the Corporate College department to work with industries to identify needed skills and determine what classes to offer.
"We're working to address the challenges that employers are experiencing in finding qualified workers," he said.
Those involved agree, though, it takes more than offering the courses to solve the problem. Vincennes University has a tool-and-die degree program with 100 percent placement but can't fill its seats.
"We're out talking to high school kids every week trying to bring kids into the program," said Scott Wallace, the program's coordinator. "It's too bad we can't get enough kids into the program to meet the need, because manufacturing is desperate for employees."
Those involved say everyone involved — manufacturers, schools, high school guidance counselors and parents — needs to do a better job of letting students know there are good jobs available in manufacturing. Meanwhile, companies are coming up with their own ways to train workers.
AAR brings in utility workers at a lower wage and starts them on an 18-month program where they do general labor that doesn't require a license. Eventually, they move into a program that allows them to try to learn a skill and are assigned a mentor. They're given more complicated tasks and are tested every six months to make sure they are progressing.
Book said he was drawn to sheet metal work because he was impressed with the attention to detail, the craftsmanship and the pride of the workers. Now, the man who once paid people to work on his cars says manufacturing is his career.
"I'm enjoying what I'm doing. It's a lot different than what I'm used to. But that's what makes it exciting for me," he said.