Conexus, Goodwill team up for job-training program on city’s northeast side

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Two not-for-profits are teaming up on a manufacturing and logistics training program to fill industry staffing gaps and help residents on the northeast side of Indianapolis get a leg up on new careers.

Conexus Indiana, which supports and promotes Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics industries, is partnering with employment services organization Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana to offer the program, which could act as a feeder for an upcoming Cook Medical manufacturing facility in the Arlington Woods neighborhood.

About 50 students will learn foundational problem-solving skills and hands-on manufacturing techniques during the 160-hour Catapult program, according to Conexus Chief Talent Programs Officer Brad Rhorer. And, they’ll be paid up to $480 a week.

“We want to be the example, with everyone standing together, in making sure that residents are at the focal point when you start to develop,” said Ashley Gurvitz, CEO of the Alliance for Northeast Unification, which is heavily involved in both the program and Cook project. “Don’t forget the neighbors. We have the solutions, and all we are seeking in these power partnerships is the ability to come along.”

Rhorer said he helped develop Catapult about five years ago. Since then, it’s been used in seven communities around Indiana, aimed at high school students, unemployed and underemployed adults, and formerly incarcerated adults.

At older programs in Lafayette and Anderson, 80% to 85% of students graduate and 90% to 95% of those graduates find manufacturing jobs with starting hourly wages of $14 to $16.50, according to Laura Miller, vice president of communications for Conexus.

Conexus is working to alleviate a projected shortfall in advanced manufacturing and logistics workers in Indiana. More than 100,000 industry employees will reach retirement age in the coming years, said President and CEO Fred Cartwright, and another 25,000 are already past 65.

Classes start later this year at an old Goodwill building and graduates will have the chance to apply for jobs at Cook Medical’s new northeast-side manufacturing facility, according to Miller.

The Cook facility at 38th Street and Sheridan Avenue is expected to be operational in about six months and create 100 jobs paying an average hourly wage of $15 plus benefits. The plant is expected to make medical devices including introducers, sheaths, drainage catheters and needles.

Cook is collaborating on the plant with the Indianapolis Foundation, Impact Central Indiana and the United Northeast Community Development Corp. The project also includes construction of a new full-service grocery store in the neighborhood, which is a food desert.

Indianapolis’ version of Catapult is backed by about $900,000 in grants. Initiative leaders announced a $200,000 gift from JPMorgan Chase on Thursday. That followed a $350,000 gift from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation in March and a full match from the Lilly Endowment, Miller said.

Correction: This story has been changed to accurately reflect where job training classes for the Catapult job training program will be held. You can see all correction here.

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