This fall, a group of Seymour High School students will learn advanced manufacturing and other job skills in a unique way.

The school will offer Owl Manufacturing to provide students an opportunity to develop and operate a real manufacturing business.

Students will be interviewed and hired to fill a variety of positions, including welders, machinists and assemblers, designers, marketing and communications, office manager and production manager.

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About 15 students have been targeted to be the first participants.

Teacher Bob Sexton, who piloted the Project Lead the Way engineering program at Seymour High School, will serve as the Owl Manufacturing adviser. Students will earn high school and college credit for taking the advanced manufacturing classes.

The school is partnering with local companies, such as Cummins, Aisin and Excel, to get the program started and provide industry leaders as mentors to students.

Marvin Veatch with JCB presented a business plan for the program to school board members Tuesday. Veatch serves on the Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. board of directors, which also is involved with developing the Owl Manufacturing program.

As part of JCIDC’s 2015 strategic plan, a survey was completed by community stakeholders, including business, industry and education leaders. The results determined the top priorities in the county are business development, retention and expansion and workforce development, Veatch said.

In Jackson County, 33.8 percent of individuals are employed in manufacturing. For the state of Indiana, that percentage is 18.7 percent.

“As you know, Jackson County is very heavily dependent upon the manufacturing industry, and that translates into additional workforce needs,” he said. “So while the need for skilled workers in the advanced manufacturing sector is an issue across the country and Indiana, these percentages certainly represent more of a need in our community.”

But rather than sitting back and doing nothing, Owl Manufacturing is a collaborative effort in an attempt to be proactive and create a solution to close that gap, Veatch said.

“Hopefully, we can bring up the employment level and develop a pipeline of workers,” he said.

Initial funding for Owl Manufacturing is coming from an $85,000 Indiana Department of Workforce Development Skill Up grant and from Seymour Community School Corp. To continue the program in the future, the goal is to use the money earned from production and sale of products to fund operations.

It has not yet been determined what products the class will manufacture.

The program is being modeled after a similar one operating in Wisconsin called Cardinal Manufacturing.

Veatch said Owl Manufacturing will benefit students by motivating them to be owners in the program, teaching them project management, team-building, advanced technical skills and “soft” skills and career success principles.

“These students will be building an understanding of the various operations of business, all while emulating a true manufacturing setting,” he said. “Manufacturing has changed. The world has changed.”

The program is important not only for students, but for local employers looking to fill jobs.

“It will better prepare them and position themselves to more equipped to be a qualifying candidate for employment,” Veatch said. “Again to build that pipeline of qualified workers so we can continue the great success we’ve had in this community from a manufacturing standpoint.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.