The recently constructed Vincennes University Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing is home to a variety of state of the art vocational training. Vincennes University Jasper Campus plans to build a similar facility in the future. Staff photo by Rachel Mummey
FORT BRANCH — The Vincennes University Gibson Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics is nearing the end of its first full semester of providing education for about 40 regular students as well as hundreds of adults who work as manufacturers and miners and are looking for extra training and certifications.
Director Victor Chamness runs the facility at U.S. 41 and Coal Mine Road. The $12 million building, which was completed in August, opened with one speech class last fall, but this semester offers a full load of courses. Seven general education classes are held during the afternoons and evenings in addition to manufacturing and industry maintenance training courses.
A new building under construction at VU Jasper Campus will match the exterior and much of the interior of the Gibson center, though the Jasper building will have a larger auditorium and more office space as the new home of WorkOne, an assistance and training program for the unemployed. VUJC Dean Alan Johnson has visited the Gibson County facility to familiarize himself with the layout.
Both facilities aim to tap into Indiana’s large manufacturing industry. The Gibson center, a 57,000-square-foot building, is home to three labs that house training equipment.
Injection molding and computer numerical control machines can be wheeled into the labs through large garage doors. Another lab is filled with training machines for electrical and hydraulics systems that the center will begin using in the summer.
The third lab is used for the center’s largest training group: coal miners.
“We’re doing mostly coal mine training right now, because there’s a brand new mine that’s going to open up here. There have been a couple Saturdays over the past couple of months when we’ve had over 200 miners here,” Chamness said.
The center has several simulation machines that connect to computers and a set of TV screens. The simulators closely re-create the experience of operating heavy machinery, including dump trucks, front loaders and roof bolters.
“Outside of not having the frame of the cab, where you’re sitting, the controls, the gauges, everything is exactly as if you were sitting inside one of these. As you’re driving along, if you go over a bump, you’ll feel it. If you get tilted too much one way, it will tilt you over,” Chamness said. “By having the people come here, we can’t guarantee that they’re going to be able to go in and operate a real piece of equipment, but they’re familiar with all the controls.
"Honestly, doing something like this is not quite the same as doing the real thing, but it’s as close as we can get. That’s what’s good about it.”
To offer further training to heavy machinery operators, Chamness plans to rent actual dump trucks and loaders so students can practice excavating on the campus’ 40 acres of land. The equipment likely will be available during the summer months. He also hopes to use large road culverts to create an underground mining environment on the property.
The center’s offerings will continue to grow with time, Chamness said. Ten classes are planned for the summer session and about 20 will be available in the fall. Courses include English, accounting, chemistry, traffic control, math, supply chain logistics, sociology, speech, career planning, project management and Spanish.
About half of the center’s students are traditional and half are members of the workforce and senior citizens. Chamness said the center provides opportunities for high school seniors to begin core coursework before transferring to a four-year university. The facility has begun advertising its services to attract more students.
“Some people heard it was just going to be for industry training. Some people heard it was just going to be for general education classes. We’re here to do both,” Chamness said.
VU will partner with Purdue University and Dubois Strong, the Dubois County development corporation, to jointly fund the cost of technology training for southwestern Indiana employers for the next three years.
The Jasper building is expected to be complete and ready for students in the summer or fall of 2013.