On June 21, the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership held the Future Skills Summit, bringing together roughly 90 employers, educators, and economic development practitioners to discuss the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities in tomorrow’s job market. The summit was designed to help professionals stay ahead of the curve by providing a comprehensive overview of the future of work and the skills needed to thrive in the years to come.

Peter Cahill, CFA, Vice President, and Portfolio Manager at 1st Source Bank, kicked off the summit with a keynote presentation discussing the South Bend – Elkhart regional economy and the impact of automation and digitization on economic development and the workforce. 

“Manufacturing’s been a tough place to be in this country for the better part of 20 years,” Cahill said. “The table is being set that that’s not going to be the case.”

Leighton Johnson of Conexus Indiana led a discussion on smart manufacturing with Michael Boyle of Elkhart County’s Smoker Craft. The company is revolutionizing the marine manufacturing industry through new Industry 4.0 technologies. They were joined by Josh Leitch of Guide Engineering, which worked with Smoker Craft to bring these technologies to light.

Michael Shoemaker, Engineer-in-Residence at iNDustry Labs at the University of Notre Dame, presented on the organization’s newly launched Manufacturing Readiness Accelerator program, an industry-driven, public-private partnership focused on R&D and technology adoption enabling a long-lasting impact, enabling the region to develop and attract talent that will become the next generation of leaders.

Jill Scicchitano, Chief Operations Officer at the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership, moderated a session on the opportunities found in the LIFT Initiative’s apprentice, internship, and skills accelerator programs. Panel included Matt Davis, Manager of Training, Organizational Development, and Community Outreach, at Marshall County company ITAMCO, Connor Large, a LIFT intern from ITAMCO, Matthew Jerlecki, the Director of Learning at Lippert and Michale Poole, a Lippert Apprentice, and Julia Perez, Human Resources Manager and Sarai Rocha, a Quality Assurance Team Leader taking part in a LIFT Skills Accelerator training, both of Culver Duck Farms. 

The closing session featured Dr. Juan Lopez of Ivy Tech Community College South Bend – Elkhart, Sheri Campeau from Bethel University, Dr. Hossein Hakimzadeh of Indiana University South Bend, and Chancellor Joseph Heidt of Marian University’s Ancilla College. The educators discussed methods to bridge the digital skills gap and fostering talent development to contribute to the overall growth and competitiveness of organizations and industries.

“The future is bright in the South Bend – Elkhart region,” said Scicchitano. “Our region has a strong history in manufacturing and education. With a clear-eyed view of what is on the horizon with Industry 4.0, our region is creating the programs and support systems to bolster the workforce years to come.”