By weekend, he’s hanging out on the lake with friends and family, probably squeezing in some time to read a book. But when Monday rolls around, Jake Straub is essentially getting paid to go to school.
“I kind of struck gold,” he says.
Straub is a Northeast Indiana Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (NEINFAME) student. Through this program, he’s getting an associate degree in advanced manufacturing at Ivy Tech Fort Wayne while also getting paid to work at one of the program’s sponsor companies three days a week.
What is NEINFAME?
The program has a mission to create a skills-ready next generation workforce through hands-on classes and a paid work experience. A select few students will be chosen to work with one of the seven local employer partners each year, getting mentored while also pursuing an associate degree at Ivy Tech.
“Not only are you getting your degree, you’re getting two years of work experience at these big name manufacturing plants,” says Straub. “You’ll have the qualifications of your education, but you’ll also have hands-on experience working with what you’ve been learning in college. So, you kind of get a head start on people that are your age.”
Monday & Tuesday
For NEINFAME students, the beginning of the week serves as dedicated class days. Being in his second year of the program, Straub says he doesn’t have to go into class until 9 a.m.
“First eight weeks, we were into robotics and some of our general ed classes. Our robotics is mainly PLC programming and control operating for FANUC robots. We’ve also done stuff with hydraulics, pneumatics, and electrical panels.”
The NEINFAME program does a lot of its classes in the Flex Lab found in the Steel Dynamics, Inc. Keith E. Busse Technology Center, a multi-million-dollar facility renovated in 2021. For five straight semesters, students work with instructors like Bob Boxell, Bob Parker, and Michael McKinley.
“You’ll form great relationships with the other classmates in your cohort, and you never know what those connections might do for you later down the road.”
Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday
Speaking of connections, seven local companies sponsor NEINFAME students including Steel Dynamics, Zimmer Biomet, LH Industries, Fort Wayne Metals, AMT, Metal Technologies, and the company that sponsors Straub, Micropulse.
“[Micropulse] hired me as a CNC operator, but every couple months—at least when I started—they sent me and the other students to different departments like maintenance and instruments. Just other aspects of the job we get experience in.”
The company Straub works for makes pediatric impants and other instruments for surgeries out of whatever material is requested. He says those get boxed up and shipped off, sometimes going right to surgery when they arrive at their destination.
“I’m on first shift and only work 8 hours, but I know other NEINFAME students work 12 hours. Some work ten. It really depends on who you’re working for.”
Shifts vary for everyone depending on the employer. There are also opportunities to work on the weekends, which Straub says i
You’ll have the qualifications of your education, but you’ll also have hands-on experience working with what you’ve been learning in college. So, you kind of get a head start on people that are your age.
– Jake Straub | NEINFAME Class of 2024
Do NEINFAME students stick with their sponsor company after graduation? Do they go somewhere else? Straub explains that it really depends on the student. For example, he applied for the program on a whim.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school, so I applied for this program because I heard about it through a friend.”
Through his classes, Straub found out that he really enjoyed programming and troubleshooting robots. Right now, working with them full time is his goal. While he’d be interested to stay at Micropulse, he’s also thinking of pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
“I might go for an engineering degree after this. NEINFAME has a lot of prerequisites for an engineering degree already. If I can transfer my credits to someplace like Purdue, and I can get a company to help me through that, it’d be awesome.”
Interested in NEINFAME?
“Don’t be afraid,” says Straub. “Even if you have no past experience or no idea what you want to do, don’t worry because these companies are looking for a blank slate to help build the next generation of technical manufacturing workers.”
Applications for the 2024 cohort are open now. You can learn more by visiting neinfame.com.
About Ivy Tech Community College
Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.