Many rural areas are among the poorest in the nation. One reason for this problem is availability of jobs. Further, high paying jobs in rural communities are scarce. But another obstacle rural workers face is the increase in knowledge-based jobs. Today's manufacturing jobs often require skill sets unlike the assembly line days of the past.
Indiana is home to many rural communities. Almost half of Indiana's counties are classified as rural. Indiana is also the top manufacturing state in the nation. In Indiana, the number of manufacturing jobs has been restored to pre-recession levels, but the labor force available in rural communities cannot fill them. Many of these manufacturing companies are related to the automotive and metal machining industry. For example the Fortune 500 companies Cummins Engines and Steel Dynamics are located in Indiana.
Brazil, Indiana is the county seat of rural Clay County. Brazil is home to three companies that fit Indiana's high tech manufacturing profile well. Great Dane Trailers, Britt Aero, and Morris Manufacturing are all located in Brazil. Great Dane makes trailers for big rig trucks, while Britt Aero and Morris Manufacturing make tools and metal parts.
Brazil has an interesting economic problem: they have jobs, but an insufficient qualified labor force. These three companies are searching nationwide for qualified workers because local workers are not qualified for their jobs. Economist Robert Guell says “You have a group of people who need jobs, want jobs. They’re ill-suited to the jobs that are available.”
A report by the Rural Urban Entrepreneurship Institute at Indiana State University explains this conundrum. According to the report advanced manufacturing is among the areas leading the resurgence in manufacturing jobs. But these advanced manufacturing jobs require higher education and training.
Rural economies need jobs, but they also need training. Proper training of local workers can help manufacturers keep jobs local and improve rural economies. The manufacturing business should support vocational and trade schools to come to Indiana. These businesses could also lobby the state legislature to provide more funding for high school shop classes. This will provide students with unique job skills before they enter the workforce.