Academy for Urban Scholars Opens Workforce Development Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The interior walls are largely bare and temporary signage is up outside the Academy for Urban Scholars new education and workforce center downtown, but educators and counselors already are serving the public there.

Tuesday afternoon, students were receiving instruction on a Fanuc robotic arm in one room. Another group of students was gathered in a separate room, and preparations were underway for a college and career fair taking place 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.

The academy, which also operates a high school on Market Street, moved into the 139 E. Boardman St. building just after Thanksgiving, said Sabrina Jones, vice president of education and workforce, superintendent of education. Over the years, the building has been occupied by Eastern Gateway Community College, Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service.   

The city’s design review committee approved temporary signage for the building during its meeting Tuesday morning.  

Alexander Demers, instructor Mark Waterstreet and Miguel Dutton work with a Fanuc robotic arm.

“We don’t have stuff on the walls and all that, but we’re moving and shaking. We’re not waiting for the pretty to happen,” Jones said. The academy is leasing the entire 11,655-square-foot space, she said.  

Managed by the National Center for Urban Solutions, the academy – which also has an operation in Columbus – is offering certifications in health care, advanced manufacturing and Google information technology, and helps to place trainees with employers, she said. 

The academy works with partners including the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and other industries to place trainees in jobs, said Wasilwa Mwonyonyi, career engagement coordinator and business development coordinator. 

“I recruit talent for them. We also upskill potential employees,” Mwonyonyi said.  

According to Julie Michael Smith, project manager for the manufacturers coalition, MVMC is contracted with the National Center for Urban Solutions on two projects: the workforce initiative funded by the General Motors community support fund and the Ohio to Work Mahoning Valley program that launched last year. 

NCUS is a “great partner,” with dedicated staff that is aggressive in outreach, creative and proactive, Smith said in an email. Its coaching staff is actively involved in career coaching, part of the comprehensive strategy MVMC has proposed to enhance the ecosystem of career coaching resources in the Mahoning Valley. 

The coalition also engaged NCUS to conduct grassroots outreach to job seekers, including those new to the workforce, displaced workers or those seeking new opportunities, Smith said. 

On this day, Mark Waterstreet, director of advanced manufacturing for the academy’s Columbus campus, was instructing Alexander Demers and Miguel Dutton, both of Youngstown, on the use of the Fanuc arm, which can be fitted with paint, welding, gripper and other tools for various manufacturing uses. 

“These type of robots are used for a lot of pick-and-place type things,” Waterstreet said. “It has so many applications.”

In addition to workforce training and helping with resume building and job placement, the academy’s downtown campus provides adults the opportunity to earn either a high school diploma or General Educational Development – GED – diploma, Jones said. The academy also has an initiative it is operating with the Mahoning Valley Fatherhood Coalition to work with fathers in the community to help them regain or improve relations with their children and to co-parent with the children’s mothers. 

Mwonyonyi works to connect fathers in the program with employers. The academy has “a lot of hats … but it’s really about servicing an untapped workforce.”

In February, the academy will start a financial opportunity center, which will assist individuals with purchasing houses, budgeting and improving their credit scores.

Pictured at top: Academy for Urban Scholars Sabrina Jones, vice president of education and workforce, superintendent of education, outside the academy’s new education and workforce center at 139 E. Boardman St.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.