Funds for Trumbull campus would expand initiative to link student, employer needs

Jackie Valley

A $243,000 appropriation to the Trumbull campus is aimed to help students and companies alike in the Mahoning Valley, a region where manufacturing companies dot the landscape and feed the economy.

A pending $2.1 million grant for Trumbull campus would address the same issue by creating a Mahoning Valley Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, capable of training 1,000 people for manufacturing jobs in the area.

Dean Wanda Thomas of Kent State Trumbull said she expects to hear soon if the grant is approved by the United States Department of Labor. The $243,000 earmark was approved in an Appropriations Bill last month.

Thomas said the appropriation will create a virtual Advanced Manufacturing Training Center – a “one-stop” place on the Web – where people can view scholarship information, standardized job descriptions, career pathway information, local projects and employment services.

Thomas said the initiative, which began several years ago, is “natural for the region” because manufacturing is the dominant form of employment in the area. The goal is to meet both regional employers’ needs and students’ interests in the field.

“We’ve got companies that are down,” she said. “We’ve also got companies trying to expand.

“We’re trying to make sure the programs are aligned to what is needed by businesses and industries.”

Thomas said the initiative began with the creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Initiative – a group that tried to get the area’s advanced manufacturing companies together every few months to learn about regional manufacturing projects.

“It became a sharing of what’s going on in the area,” she said.

In the past year and a half, Thomas said the group began looking for external resources to address needs of the manufacturing companies. Consequently, Rep. Tim Ryan submitted the appropriation proposal to create the Virtual Advanced Manufacturing Training Center.

With the focus being Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties, some of the regional companies involved include M7 Technologies, WCI Steel, R.A.S. Manufacturing Company and RMI Titanium Company.

Thomas said she hopes the initiatives will help “dispel stereotypes” associated with manufacturing jobs.

“Many of these careers are very technologically advanced,” she said. “It isn’t just screwing a bolt on everyday.”

In addition, Thomas said the initiative cuts across multiple age brackets, including everyone from high school graduates to current employees needing to enhance their skills as technology progresses.

“We have the equipment, we have the building, but we often don’t have the students,” she said.

Lisa Goetsch, outreach program director at Trumbull, said the campus’s Technology Building, which consists mostly of technology and manufacturing laboratories, offers students practical, hands-on experience with real equipment.

“It’s the actual equipment used by companies, not a simulator,” she said, adding that many companies forged partnerships with Trumbull by donating equipment.

Thomas said the Web site for the Virtual Advanced Manufacturing Training Center should be operational in a year with access available through a link on Trumbull’s Web site.

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].