Brownstown program prepares students to enter workforce


A manufacturing and logistics class at Brownstown Central High School helped a 19-year-old land his job.

Levi Hinderlider is a leadership development trainee at Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing Inc. He credits his position to Dan Schwartz’s teaching style and opportunities offered in his classroom.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for him,” Hinderlider said.

The Brownstown resident was hired to join Toyota’s newly developed program, which is designed to prepare employees to assume leadership roles.

He is one of four people hired for the yearlong, full-time, paid position. He will learn how the company is run, how to communicate effectively and the responsibilities of each department.

Ultimately, Hinderlider will be placed as a manufacturing front-line leader at the Columbus-based facility in a specific department.

Steve Pride, senior manager for human resources at Toyota, said the program will prepare trainees for their next role.

“He will gain a wider perspective of the overall business,” Pride said. “He’ll then be more successful in the manufacturing areas as a front-line leader.”

Post-high school plans

As a high school student, he was unsure what he wanted to do following graduation, Hinderlider said.

That was until Schwartz reached out to him.

Schwartz, a 34-year educator, told Hinderlider about the new Hire Technology program he was offering at Brownstown that specializes in manufacturing and logistics. The two-year curriculum offers dual credits and industry credentials.

It was developed by Conexus Indiana, the state’s advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative, and Ivy Tech Community College. Statewide, more than 130 high schools offer the program, serving more than 1,500 students.

Schwartz was trained in how the curriculum is supposed to run. He then was

allowed to put his own spin on it.

He chooses to teach through hands-on projects and introduces students to area companies. He partners with Excel, Aisin and Cummins to find out exactly what the students should be learning in order to be successful in those fields.

Contextualized math, science, technology, engineering and applied problem-solving skills are among the concepts key to the program. But what sets Schwartz’s class apart is his approach with each lesson, teaching alongside the students even when it’s on the computer or Web-based. That way, he can be certain students understand.

Schwartz even went as far as setting up interviews for students to find jobs and internships through industry leaders, including Toyota.

That’s where Hinderlider caught the attention of Toyota recruiters and eventually was offered his current position.

‘Potential for leadership’

Pride said Hinderlider had the “basic building blocks” in manufacturing that are needed to transition into Toyota’s trainee program.

“When we met Levi, we immediately saw a skill set Levi had and his potential for leadership and attitude that we could build upon,” Pride said.

Today, Hinderlider said, he often utilizes what Schwartz taught him about terminology, communication and operating skills.

“He really applies things to real-life scenarios,” Hinderlider said. “It’s things that you actually see in manufacturing.”

Schwartz said Hinderlider’s story is exactly what he’s striving for with his classes.

“It’s really great because you know whenever you get a success story, it makes everything we’re doing worthwhile,” Schwartz said.

Just this year, Schwartz received the Conexus Indiana Best Hire Technology Launch award for how he effectively launched his classes.

Toyota’s program

Pride said Toyota’s leadership program accepts recent high school graduates with a technical or mechanical manufacturing background and also college students. Specifically, the company looks for trainees who are from the surrounding area.

“More than 75 percent of Toyota’s workforce is from the three-county area,” Pride said.

Through training, employees will grasp problem-solving skills, project management and most importantly how to work with people. In a leadership role, one must work with an array of people who learn in different ways — all with their own personalities.

“With that background and skill set, they will become more successful in helping other associates,” Pride said.

The trainees also learn what each department’s responsibility is, such as safety, quality assurance and production control.

“They will receive a well-rounded understanding of how the company functions,” Pride said.

He said the program will continue next year.

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Brownstown Central High School’s Hire Technology program:

Developed by Conexus Indiana and Ivy Tech Community College, it’s a two-year, industry-driven high school curriculum that offers dual credits and industry credentials.

It prepares students who are looking to go into the manufacturing workforce after high school.

It is taught by Dan Schwartz, who received an award this year for the success of the program.

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“When we met Levi, we immediately saw a skill set Levi had and his potential for leadership and attitude that we could build upon.”

Steve Pride with Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing Inc., on hiring Levi Hinderlider after he completed the Hire Technology program at Brownstown Central High School

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Toyota’s Leadership Program, which prepares new employees for future opportunities, will continue next year. An outline of the program is not available online.

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