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GE Plant Struggles with Local Workforce

The plant initially planned to have 200 employees by 2018, but has faced challenges finding qualified workers.

Aviation Plane Pixabay

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Production is slowly growing at GE Aviation's jet engine factory in western Indiana, though much of the $110 million plant is quiet two years after it opened.

The Lafayette plant has 87 employees and produces about six engines a week for passenger airliners, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported .

The plant produces the Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion engine, which has a backlog of more than 14,000 orders. The new engine for single-aisle commercial aircraft is designed to be more fuel-efficient.

The company initially planned to have 200 workers by 2018, but it now aims to have 230 workers by 2019 and produce five engines a day by 2020. Company officials said the plant faces hurdles in finding qualified workers.

Most employees are aircraft mechanics credentialed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Credentialing can take about two years of schooling or equivalent military experience, said Lafayette site leader Eric Matteson.

The company has gone to local schools — such as Purdue University, Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University — for new hires. It also is now recruiting at other schools and military bases.

"Our first few waves of technicians came straight from the local market, but after that we needed to start branching out," Matteson said.

The plant likely won't expand larger than 400 employees, Matteson said.

"The days of the big campuses, at least for General Electric, are gone," he said.

Matteson said the plant currently focuses on engine assembly but will shift to providing more maintenance and repair services in 2020, in order to keep the facility relevant in the decades to come.

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