Dept. of Energy Commits $1M to YSU for Energy Workforce Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The U.S. Department of Energy has announced it will commit $1 million toward a partnership between Youngstown State University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to support a new energy workforce innovation center.

The announcement comes a week after the state of Ohio said it would devote a portion of $5 million it received from its $12 million settlement with General Motors to help fund the YSU-led project.

“This is a great thing for the community,” said Rick Stockburger, president and CEO of Brite Energy Innovators, an energy business incubator based in Warren. “Right now, it’s still in the planning phase.”

According to the DOE, the money would be used to support development of an Energy Storage Workforce Innovation Center. The center would be “based in the Midwest,” but would support the battery and electric-vehicle manufacturing industry in northeastern Ohio “by helping supply a capable workforce.” 

Two major projects in Lordstown, Ultium Cells LLC’s $2.3 billion new electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant and Lordstown Motors’ retooling of GM’s former Lordstown plant, are under development there.

“We are in a period of tremendous advancement in battery technologies, presenting new opportunities for electric vehicles and energy storage systems,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said in a statement. “With these new technologies and growing industries, it is essential that we prepare a workforce that will lead the next generation of energy storage technologies into practice. Our investment will help continue the region’s reputation of meeting the nation’s manufacturing needs.”

This effort supports DOE’s Energy Storage Grand Challenge, which draws on the extensive research capabilities of the national laboratories, universities and industry partners to accelerate the development of energy-storage technologies and promote American leadership in energy storage technologies. 

The Grand Challenge’s roadmap outlines a department-wide strategy to accelerate innovation across a range of storage technologies and develop a skilled workforce based on three concepts: Innovate Here, Make Here and Deploy Everywhere. 

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office and the Advanced Manufacturing Office sponsored the project.

YSU President Jim Tressel said in a statement last week, put out in response to financial commitments from General Motors, that the university intends to contribute significantly to the region’s transformation. 

“YSU and our many partners are committed to playing a major role in training, research, innovation, infrastructure and workforce development services in order to help transform the economic engine of our region,” he said. 

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, during a press conference with Gov. Mike DeWine last week, said that the project is important to the growth of the Mahoning Valley.

“As we’re trying to build an entire new industry in the Mahoning Valley, we’re going to have a premier education and training facility right there with Eastern Gateway and Youngstown State,” he said. 

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