The workforce needs of the advanced battery industry vary across the supply chain. In electrode manufacturing, skilled workers are needed for the mixing, coating, calendaring, and slip-punch processes, Mr. Kamischke explained. To make cells, they are needed for the dry room, electrode-stacking, assembly, and formation processes. Skilled workers also are required for pack assembly and testing. The training and education requirements for manufacturing positions range “all the way from high-school degrees to Ph. Ds.,” he said.
Engineers will require four-year degrees, while some working in areas such as advanced materials, chemicals, modeling, and simulation will need advanced degrees, he said. The company also will need engineers to design electrical circuits, mechanical systems, and software to run the systems. The U.S. skills gap mainly is with advanced-material and chemical engineers, he said.
Most of EnerDel’s workforce, however, will be in “middle-skill” operations work, Mr. Kamischke said. The ratio of middle-skill to high-skill workers, in fact, is around five-to-one. In some of the more demanding manufacturing processes, such as with cell and electrode fabrication, EnerDel will look for workers with two-year applied sciences degrees. “They will be focused on the industrial technology path, advanced manufacturing, or engineering technology,” he said.
Demand for “middle skill” workers may exceed supply. Currently, 56 percent of demand for workers in Indiana falls in this category. This ratio is likely to remain stable through 2016, Mr. Kamischke said. However, only 45 percent of Indiana’s workforce qualifies as “middle skill.”33 “We have demand for those jobs outstripping the workers,” he said. “This is one area of concentration EnerDel is working to solve with the state of Indiana and our educational institutes.”
Compared to the rest of the nation, Indiana has a relatively low percentage—less than 40 percent--of adults aged 25 to 64 who have at least an associate’s degree, Mr. Kamischke said. Indiana ranks ahead of only West Virginia, Louisiana, Nevada, and Tennessee. 34
An innovative Indiana community college called Ivy Tech is working to resolve this gap. Ivy Tech has 23 campuses across the state and 130,000 students. “As we see it, Ivy Tech will be part of the backbone of building this emerging middle work force for the renewables age,” Mr. Kamischke said. “They are proactively teaming up with industry to create the workforce to meet this new demand.” The school offers an associate’s degree in applied science, for example, with focuses on industrial technology, advanced manufacturing, and engineering technology.
33 Data from Indiana Department of Workforce Development and U.S. Census Bureau.
34 Data from Indiana Cluster Skills Labor Market Monster Study.