Ground Broken at MCCTC to Train for Electric, EV Jobs

CANFIELD, Ohio – As the Mahoning Valley continues to expand its significance in the electrical vehicle industry, the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center plans to expand to meet future demand for skilled workers.

MCCTC broke ground Tuesday on a $1.1 million Innovative Energy and Technology Workforce Training Center where both high school students and adults will train for local careers in the electrical industry.

Classroom lab space for the high school electrical programs are already ”bursting at the seams,” said instructor Kory Cooper. The new Energy Center will provide the additional room and resources the program needs to teach students not only about future green energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels, but also about electric vehicles and EV charging stations.

A partnership with FirstEnergy will lead to students learning about traditional electric grid line work as the grid will require upgrades, Cooper said. Educating these students about electrical generators is also important, since this area is prone to storms knocking out power, he added.

“Our program has been explosive the last two years,” Cooper said. “I’m super excited about the opportunities we’re going to be able to give to younger students in STEM and also the high school.”

The greatest challenge is to keep ahead of technology as new projects land in the Voltage Valley, Cooper said. “With the Ultium [Cells] battery plant, we’re trying to stay cutting edge and to provide the students with the tech they need to be able to work.”

MCCTC Superintendent John Zehentbauer said the program would be used for Valley STEM 9th and 10th-grade students, as well as the 11th and 12th grade MCCTC students. It would also augment programs for adult learners and those receiving industrial training in conjunction with area businesses and manufacturers.

“This new center will be an adaptable, flexible area where students can gain work skills, experiment and be exposed to the latest technologies available,” Zehentbauer said. “A section of this new building will be dedicated to conventional grid power supply of electricity, while another part will be dedicated to a variety of energy services including solar, wind and other power sources.”

Additionally, the automotive tech program will use the facility to study EV charging stations and repair.

The $1.1 million project is funded through a combination of sources, including $250,000 from Ohio capital budget and $218,000 for equipment from the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners. Additional federal funding is being sought and Zehentbauer credited VAZA Consulting for being instrumental in helping to obtain monies for the project.

Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti talked about the importance of several of the programs at MCCTC, which along with other partnering organizations like Youngtown State University, are preparing students for the workforce, college and the trades. She noted that in as little as four years from now, more people will be buying an EV and require a charging station, possibly in their homes. All of those will need installation and repairs down the road.

“We have to prepare our students for the future,” Rimedio-Righetti said.

State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, talked about the importance of everyone working together for these projects and to make sure there is a trained workforce to make certain the new jobs coming here with the EV industry stay here in the Mahoning Valley.

State Sen. Michael Rulli, R- Salem, pointed out that students in Europe start talking about what they want to do at a much younger age compared to their counterparts in the U.S.

“Right now we have an EV revolution,” Rulli said. “But you cannot have an electric revolution without the power grid intact. We have enough gas in Ohio in the Utica and Marcellus shale to actually, literally supply the earth for 800 years.”

Rulli talked about the natural gas power plants in Wellsville and Lordstown each able to produce enough electricity for a million homes, growth in the interest in EVs with even mainstream companies like Ford dedicating half of its resources in that direction, innovations in EV battery technology and an infrastructure bill that Rulli is introducing to construct more charging stations.

“All these things we talk about are going to require maintenance and they are going to require jobs,” Rulli said.

Zehentbauer said the Energy Center project is a culmination of about 18 months in planning. MCCTC is hoping general contractor J Herbert Construction is able to complete 3,000 square feet of classroom space, plus a connector to the MCCTC in time for students to be in that classroom next fall, he said.

“I really appreciate the bipartisan support,” Zehentbauer said. “Workforce is such a huge piece in the Valley and we all realize that if we don’t all come together and put a good workforce together, we are not going to survive.”

Local manufacturers support the training center project, including members of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturing Coalition, Foxconn and Ultium Cells. Zehentbauer said he sees the MCCTC as just providing a piece toward a long list of jobs students will be able to get in the future.

“Our enrollment is booming in electricity,” Zehentbauer said. “We’ve had a waiting list, so those students on the high school level will be the first priority. This program is tied into our automotive and our EV program with our partners with Taylor Kia and Sweeney Chevrolet and several other dealers throughout the Valley. …There’s jobs that will come up that we believe the center will be able to train for and adapt to,” Zehentbauer said.

Zachary Wells, a senior electricity student, said he chose the program at the MCCTC because it was a high paying trade and the new facility will give students a lot of new opportunities in career choices.

“I think electric vehicles are definitely coming up fast on us and when the future comes for us, it will be good to have the experience,” he said.

Wells has already signed up with the Local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers trade union to continue toward that path.

Likewise, William Tadlock, a junior in the automotive technology program, is excited by the opportunities he is getting through the program and the new wave of EV technology. He plans to work in an automotive shop after graduation with the goal of one day opening his own shop and he sees understanding electric vehicles as instrumental in achieving those goals.

Pictured at top from left: State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-33; MCCTC Superintendent John Zehentbauer; Mahoning County Commissioners David Ditzler and Carol Rimedio-Righetti; Nick Santucci of VAZA Consulting, Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti; State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-59:Thomas Madej, president of TEAM 8 Architecture; MCCTC Board Member Michael Stanko; Grant Mingus, J Herbert Construction Co.; MCCTC Board President Marie Dockry, MCCTC Board Vice President Beth Donofrio, MCCTC Adult Supervisor Mary Mihalopoulos and Dr.Mara Banfield, director of CTC and Superintendent of Valley STEM. Board members not pictured were attorney Kathi McNabb Welsh, Jefferey Good, Richard S. Scarsella and Ronald Shives.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.