By Jackie Ruller
Director, YSU Excellence Training Center
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown State University’s Excellence Training Center has been open for about 18 months and the impact to the region is just beginning.
The ETC is a one-of-a-kind workforce, education, research and commercial center with over $10 million of advanced manufacturing equipment that is used to bring its programs to life. The ETC is owned and operated by YSU and is part of the Division of Workforce Education and Innovation.
Humtown Products, Pantheon Innovative Builders and Eastern Gateway Community College are all tenants in the ETC.
Students take courses in the ETC, allowing them to see what the center has to offer and inspiring them to participate in some way during their time at YSU. Whether it is by taking a certificate course that complements their program, participating in a research project/capstone project or becoming a student worker/intern, the hands-on experience they receive is invaluable.
Having students be the face of the center by giving tours, helping with events, acting as ambassadors for the ETC among their peers or teaching younger students how to run the equipment is a goal. When prospective students and community members see students taking an active role in running the center, it makes the ETC seem less intimidating. There will be nine YSU student employees in the ETC by the end of the semester.
The ETC and STEM college frequently host events together, including company visits, Ohio Manufacturing Day programs, Penguin Preview tours, high school visits and post career expo company/student interviews. The physics department held the American Physics Society Eastern Great Lakes conference in the ETC this past spring.
Besides YSU students, workforce courses are offered to those who want to come into the center, attend a short-term course, learn a new skill and leave with an industry recognized credential. Participants do not have to be a YSU student and there are rarely prerequisites for these courses.
Grants, like TechCred, are available from the state for companies who would like to send their employees for upskilling. The TechCred grant pays up to $2,000 per person per course and allows companies to send their employees for training for free or at a greatly reduced cost. Upon successful completion of the course, the workforce students receive their credentials/certificates and the company can apply to the state for reimbursement.
The division continues to pursue other grants and sources of funding and was recently awarded a $100,000 Amplifying Ohio’s Pathways to Graduation grant from the state that will be used to provide funding for high school students to take courses that will result in points towards graduation. Several 12-point pathways options were outlined in the proposal, some of which is hands-on in the ETC.
Over 3,400 people have visited the ETC, at least 75 industry recognized credentials have been issued and representatives from more than 130 companies have been through the center since the grand opening in July 2021. While the numbers paint a picture, it is the human-interest stories that portray the center’s true impact.
During the end of spring semester 2022, an adviser from the YSU Honors College requested a tour for one of their students. The student, a business administration major, was thinking of transferring to another university closer to home because she didn’t feel that YSU offered her what she was looking for. Her goal is to have her own jewelry business and while she could get a solid business background here, she wasn’t learning anything about making jewelry.
On the last day of the semester before she was to leave to go home for the summer, her adviser brought her to the ETC for a tour. She was so amazed and excited about the equipment in the ETC that she decided to stay at YSU. She is now working at the ETC part-time, learning to use equipment in the center and will be pursuing grant opportunities to secure funding so that she can start her business.