MCCTC Unveils New Energy and Workforce Training Center

CANFIELD, Ohio – Academic, political and community leaders gathered at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center on Friday morning to celebrate the completion of a project more than two years in the making.

MCCTC heralded the opening of its $1.2 million energy and workforce training center – known simply as The Energy Center – during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The new building is dedicated to workforce development and training in the electrical, alternative energy and electrical vehicle industries.

“We’re really excited – there’s a lot of potential,” said John Zehentbauer, superintendent of MCCTC. “We’ve built a very adaptable center.”

The 4,000-square-foot building connects directly with the school’s electrical lab and student workspace. At present, the building is waiting to be outfitted with the necessary equipment.

However, Zehentbauer said the building’s most important asset is what’s not seen.

“There’s more than 5,000 feet of conduit in there,” he said, that runs through the floor, walls and ceiling. That means the center has the infrastructure to support a variety of disciplines in the electrical industry, including EV chargers, solar panels and generator systems. All of the operations will be monitored through a data analytics program that students will help develop, he said.

MCCTC’s Energy Center was first announced more than two years ago, and ground was broken for the project in October 2022.

“It’s going to grow to what our community and workforce expect,” he said. 

Solar panels and generator systems should arrive in December or January, Zehentbauer said. There are additional discussions ongoing related to installing wind turbines.

The center will also be equipped with between three to 10 different models of EV charging systems, Zehentbauer added.  

He said the level three chargers – that is, the fast chargers – would be located outside the building, while level two and one EV chargers will plug in along a wall inside the new building.  

“Our students need to know how to install them safely and the computer programming,” he said.

Zehentbauer hopes the community will also use the center’s resources to educate themselves on EV charging as the auto industry makes its transition.

Demand in the electrical program at MCCTC is growing exponentially, Zehentbauer said. “We had 39 applicants for 25 spots in our electricity program,” he said. The current lab is too small, and the expansion presented the opportunity to integrate EV, solar and alternative energy into the traditional curriculum.

Kory Cooper, electricity instructor at MCCTC.

Kory Cooper, MCCTC’s electricity instructor, said the expansion opens up even more doors for students.

“This is huge for the students,” he said. “We were kind of in this small area and it was hard to adapt this space, and we were limited to the experiences we were giving these students.”

Cooper also noted the building enhances workforce development capabilities, which in the end helps employers throughout the Mahoning Valley.

Among the areas the courses will focus on is power generation, an issue that has become one of concern because of numerous power outages that have hit the region over the past several years, Cooper said.

“We are going to dive into power distribution with generators and backup abilities,” he said. Since electrical work is dangerous – especially for inexperienced students in high school – the new Energy Center allows for space that could accommodate simulation systems and virtual reality equipment.

Students, including Caden Zion from West Branch, sitting, work at MCCTC’s existing electric lab.

Students will also be able to design and install actual EV chargers in the new Energy Center for residential and commercial applications, Cooper added. 

“We’ll be able to adapt and change with the workforce and industry,” he said.

The new center was first announced more than two years ago, and ground was broken for the project in October 2022.

“The potential of this building is huge,” Zehentbauer said. “We’re very excited and looking forward to the future.”

Pictured at top: John Zehentbauer, superintendent at MCCTC.

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