LAPORTE — A new position has been created to try and fill more job openings at factories in LaPorte.
Erik Nelson is the new workforce development coordinator for the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership.
“Erik is going to be focused on bringing workforce options to our local employers,” said Bert Cook, executive director of LEAP.
The new position is partially funded with a $175,000 grant from the Howmet Aerospace Foundation.
Cook said the three-year grant will also pay for high school seniors throughout LaPorte County to obtain the skills necessary for local job openings in manufacturing.
About a dozen of the scholarships for Ivy Tech Community College will target positions in maintenance requiring electrical and other skills to keep things like assembly lines running.
“Almost every manufacturer is looking for maintenance people as we speak. You can almost write your own paycheck because it’s such a position of need,” he said.
A number of groups from the public and private sectors have been working together to meet local workforce needs for several years.
However, Cook said there hasn’t been anyone at the top to really lead the effort and the people involved can only dedicate so much time because of their full-time job commitments.
He said the same agencies will continue to help under the umbrella of Nelson, whose focus is strictly on meeting demand for qualified workers.
Cook said there are hundreds, if not more than a thousand, job openings at factories in the city and surrounding area.
Keeping local residents from going to jobs elsewhere is part of the strategy for reducing the number.
“If we find 400 graduating seniors and keep those individuals here and put them to work in all of our local companies, we would have made a tremendous difference in year one, and we’ll just continue to grow the program from there,” he said.
Nelson graduated from LaPorte High School in 2013. He received a bachelor’s degree in sports management from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and has worked in marketing and event management for professional and college athletic teams, including the Chicago Bears and at the University of Notre Dame.
Nelson also comes with experience in sales and home construction.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to make a positive impact in the community I was born and raised in,” he said.
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