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Advanced manufacturing employment grew in Indiana for sixth straight year

Brendan Ward, a robotic technician at Tri-State Automation, works on a robotic arm at the company’s Hammond plant last year. Advanced manufacturing employs more than 500,000 Hoosiers.

Despite the ongoing overall decline in manufacturing employment, a study found Indiana gained advanced manufacturing jobs for the sixth straight year in 2016.

An estimated 505,370 Hoosiers work in advanced manufacturing jobs related to lightweighting, according to a report by Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT). It's part of the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a public-private partnership that's working to develop new manufacturing technologies and train the workforce for increasingly high-tech factory jobs.

The initiative, which was launched by the Obama administration and leading companies like Boeing and General Electric, is working toward the incorporation of lightweight materials in a number of sectors, including automotive, aerospace, rail, heavy ground vehicles, small boat, large ship and defense manufacturing.

“As demand (increases) for workers with the skills and abilities to take jobs available today, and with millions of manufacturing jobs expected to be available over the next decade, there is an immediate need for continued collaboration between educators and industry to develop a talent pipeline and fill that skills gap,” LIFT Education and Workforce Development Director Emily DeRocco said.

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Employment in advanced manufacturing jobs in the state has grown by more than 81,000 jobs — or more than 20 percent — since the Great Recession, the study found. The most in-demand jobs are laborers, maintenance and repair workers, supervisors, production workers and inspectors.

“The upward trend of manufacturing employment across the state shows Indiana remains a manufacturing powerhouse,” Indiana Manufacturers Association President and CEO Brian Burton said. “Investing in tomorrow’s workforce right now has never been so critical as Indiana continues to make a strong comeback.”

Online ads for advanced manufacturing jobs related to lightweighting in Indiana stood at 11,441 in the fourth quarter, down from 14,434 in the third quarter.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.