Oh-Penn Initiative Lands $950K Grant for Workforce Development

CANFIELD, Ohio – A joint initiative between the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and the West Central Job Partnership in Sharon, Pa., has secured nearly $1 million in federal grant money to support workforce development in manufacturing across the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.

Julie Michael Smith, project manager for MVMC, made the announcement Thursday morning at the organization’s quarterly meeting at the Mahoning County Career & Technical Center.

The effort, known as the Oh-Penn Regional Collaboration, received $954,708 from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Work Opportunities World Communities grant program, Smith said.

“They’ve been successful in winning five grants,” Smith said of the Oh-Penn partnership.  “That’s been transformational to the workforce development effort.”

The money would be used for three purposes, Smith said.

“One is to promote the availability of good jobs in all the counties,” she said, which include Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio, and Mercer and Lawrence counties across the border in Pennsylvania.

A second is to further equity and inclusion programs in manufacturing, Smith said. “We do have a very diverse workforce and a very diverse community,” she noted. “Manufacturing has not always represented that.”

Third, the funding would help organizations in Lawrence and Mercer counties form an industry sector partnership that mirrors the structure and function of MVMC, Smith said.

For more than two months, MVMC has been working with builders, manufacturers and workforce development specialists in western Pennsylvania to help lay the groundwork for this coalition and allow it to grow.

“This grant will help continue their development,” Smith said. “They’re at the beginning stages right now.”

At the same time, the grant would help MVMC with its efforts in Ohio, along with strengthening cross-border cooperation with Lawrence and Mercer counties, she said.

The grant is the same source that funded MVMC’s WorkAdvance program. That program in 2022 helped train 90 individuals who had no previous manufacturing experience.

This summer, the initiative specifically focused on encouraging women to enter the manufacturing sector, said Alex Hertzer, senior project manager.

“Over the course of July, we had four women go through this program,” he said. The program helps to increase efforts to bring more women into the manufacturing sector and call attention to manufacturers that are looking to hire more women.

MVMC also conducted manufacturing “boot camps” at Trivium in Youngstown and Ultium Cells LLC in Lordstown, Hertzer said. 

“Six individuals went through that boot camp,” he said. “What’s really exciting is that all six not only completed the boot camp, but by graduation they all received offers from the manufacturers to start their new career.”

Their jobs begin Monday morning, Hertzer said.

A third program that kicked off this year includes high school students from Choffin Career & Technical Center in Youngstown and Trumbull County Career & Technical Center in Champion, he added. These are students who have not yet declared a career path after graduation.

“It was great to work with the students throughout the year,” he said. The plan is to partner with Choffin and TCTC again and possibly expand to other schools in the region.

Hertzer also said there are plans to expand the WorkAdvance initiative by developing a new WorkAdvance training center and program in Trumbull County through the Warren Forward and the Trumbull County Community Action Partnership. As of now, the WorkAdvance program is run in Youngstown, and the idea is to improve accessibility to residents in Warren and Trumbull County.

“The Warren community has a great deal of people looking for new opportunities,” he said. “It’s really meant to be community driven.”

Pictured at top: Julie Michael Smith, project manager for MVMC.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.