New SOD Technical Training Center Will Expand Offerings

SALEM, Ohio – Over the past five years, the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center has conducted 214 courses over 16,000 hours to train 3,100 individuals from 123 companies.

Julie Needs, SOD Center executive director, believes the new SOD Technical Training Center will allow SOD to double those numbers.

SOD unveiled its new center Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

“The expansion is going to focus on, of course, what we’ve always focused on. Ninety percent of our training is for the incumbent workforce, filling the gaps in current training options that are going to assist in growth, development, retention and attraction for our region,” Needs said.

The expanded training will include AC/DC, programmable logic controller, hydraulics, pneumatics, robotics and motor drives. 

“And we won’t stop there,” she said. “We will continue to look for more opportunity and more ways to grow and support the workforce.”

The training offered at the new center is based on the needs of area employers, Needs said. 

SOD also will partner with the Excellence Training Center at Youngstown State University to bring additional training options to the center.

“Training will target entry-level employees, upskilling the incumbent workforce, student training programs and summer camps to expose young learners to technical training and the trades,” Needs said.

Credentials and certifications will be available for most course offerings.

Needs said that since SOD opened its doors, it has needed technical equipment to be able to offer more to employers. The new center provides that.

Through one of the SOD board members, Needs connected with William Watson, superintendent of the Utica Shale Academy, and the academy provided training at SOD. That partnership is a lot of the reason the new center happened, she said.

“We can’t thank them enough,” Needs said. 

William Watson, superintendent of the Utica Shale Academy, speaks during Friday’s event.

The SOD Center and the Utica Shale Academy received a Connecting Communities Through Workforce Training grant, which came through the first round of the state Appalachian Community Grant funding. SOD was a subrecipient.

Needs thanked Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, the Ohio Department of Development and the Governor’s Office of Appalachia for the grant. She also thanked the SOD Board of Directors, state Sen. Michael Rulli of Salem, R-33rd, and state Rep. Monica Robb Blasdell of Columbiana, R-79th, for their support.

Watson said a pivotal aspect of the Utica Shale Academy’s success is its partnership with SOD.

Needs’ “collaboration and support have been vital in aligning our educational objectives to the economic needs of our community,” he said.

He said the collaboration is a perfect merger between business, economic development and training.

“We are not only educating students, we are creating pathways for careers and contributing to the economic vitality of our region,” Watson said.

Jake Gano, president and CEO of TruCut Inc., speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center’s new technical training center.

Jake Gano, president and chief executive officer of TruCut Inc. in Sebring, said the skills that workers will learn at SOD are what he needs in employees at his business.

“Right now it’s tough to fill a lot of roles because you don’t have that skill set,” Gano said. “Now we feel comfortable we can make hires with just good, quality people, and then we can send them down here [to SOD] to get the training they need.”

TruCut is a sheet metal fabricator that warehouses and distributes service parts for the HVAC industry.

Both Blasdel and a representative of U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance’s office presented Needs with proclamations, recognizing SOD accomplishments.

Pictured at top: Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center in Salem, speaks at Friday’s ribbon-cutting event.

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