Grants Enhance Valley Workforce Training Efforts

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Recently announced grants will boost programs aimed at training people for jobs in manufacturing and health care, proponents say.

On Thursday, the Local Government Innovation Program awarded $50,000 to help establish a manufacturing training center in Youngstown. The day before, the Fund for Our Economic Future approved a grant of up to $400,000 to assist a program being piloted in the health-care sectors in Cuyahoga County and the Mahoning Valley.

The innovation fund grant, awarded by the Ohio Development Services Agency, will be used to conduct a feasibility study with architectural resources for the proposed manufacturing training center. The city of Youngstown applied for the grant on behalf of the local partners pursuing the project, which include the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, Youngstown State University, Eastern Gateway Community College and area technical and career centers.
Last year, Eastern Gateway secured $2.5 million in federal funds for equipment to be housed at the center.

The study will evaluate different potential locations and designs for the center “and begin to give us some estimate of what it will cost and inform our plans,” said Jessica Borza, MVMC’s executive director. The coalition has been working to address specific skills gaps in manufacturing locally.

“We’re really excited and grateful to the state for awarding us this grant,” she remarked.

The feasibility study will pave the way for “significant” future investment in downtown Youngstown, said T. Sharon Woodberry, the city’s director of community planning and economic development. The grant represents “a first step” to establish the Mahoning Valley “as an innovative center for advancing manufacturing, making it more technology driven and building on all the assets that we have here,” she said.

Downtown was determined as the site for the training center because of proximity to YSU and Eastern Gateway as well as America Makes, formerly National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

Borza said she and Woodberry would meet next week to discuss particulars of the project, including potential sites. From there they will work with the project’s architect to get specifications from the various partners to evaluate the sites and determine the project’s cost.

“We’ve generally talked about a few sites but that will be part of the next step of the process,” Borza said.

Towards Employment, a Cleveland-based nonprofit that aims to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment, was awarded two grants worth up to $700,000 to support is WorkAdvance and TalentNEO pilot programs.

According to the release announcing the grants, WorkAdvance is a national pilot program, entering its fifth year in northeastern Ohio, “that seeks to demonstrate how an integrated delivery of workforce services tied to in-demand jobs with advancement potential can result in improved outcomes for individuals and employers, at the same or lower cost to taxpayers” as the workforce system now in place. The pilot will receive up to $400,000 for its final year.
In northeastern Ohio, WorkAdvance is being piloted in the manufacturing and health-care sectors in Cuyahoga County and the Mahoning Valley.

The fund also approved a two-year grant of up to $300,000 to support implementation of TalentNEO, which has participation from 12 businesses in the information technology and manufacturing sectors and 15 service providers in Summit and Cuyahoga counties. The pilot is being used to determine whether the use of skills scores can more effectively match Northeast Ohio job seekers to employment; provide benefits to employers such as decreased time-to-hire and increased retention; and increase access to opportunity for residents who lack traditional credentials.

“Programmatic success is about getting and supporting low-income individuals on a career pathway, while meeting businesses’ needs. But it’s also about the degree to which lessons from the demonstration project inform job preparation execution and policies across the region, the state and the country,” said Jill Rizika, executive director of Towards Employment. “We are already seeing the far-reaching effects of WorkAdvance, which helped bring the TalentNEO pilot to Northeast Ohio.

WorkAdvance’s efforts relate to the career pathways work being done by the Oh-Penn Interstate Region, Borza said. “We have been working with Compass Family and Community Services to pilot the WorkAdvance model, which is what is continuing to be funded by” the Fund for Our Economic Future, she said.

A six-week manufacturing training program, which will have cohorts beginning this month and next month in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, will provide individuals who are interested in a manufacturing career what they need to get started in a short period of time, Borza said. Participants earn six different credentials upon completing the course.

“It’s a starting point for anyone who is interested in manufacturing,” Borza said. Participants who complete the program can go directly into manufacturing jobs and have an advantage over and better earning potential than someone hired off the street, she said. They also can then have the foundation to continue additional training in machining or industrial maintenance, or they could go on and to an apprenticeship, she said.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.