Oh-Penn Network Boosts Apprenticeship Programs

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Greater Oh-Penn Manufacturing Apprentice Network, a collaboration of 14 counties in northeastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania, is making headway in its efforts to boost apprenticeship training in the region’s manufacturing sector.

According to the most recent Apprentice Network update from the Oh-Penn Manufacturing Collaborative, 20 manufacturers report they have benefited from a $2.9 million grant that the U.S. Department of Labor awarded the collaborative nearly two years ago.

The grant provides reimbursements to employers willing to institute apprenticeship programs within their companies. The grant money is used to offset the costs of training new apprentices and bringing them into the manufacturing workforce.

Under the grant program, participating employers were reimbursed the first year with a one-time, $6,000 grant per apprentice that would cover the costs of developing a new program for the company. Those looking to expand programs in place received a one-time reimbursement of $3,000 per apprentice.

During the second year, employers are eligible to receive a one-time $5,000 grant of per apprentice toward a new program and $2,500 to expand their existing apprenticeship efforts. Reimbursements decrease by $1,000 each year for new plans, and by $500 for existing programs through the fifth year.

The program encompasses Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, and Warren counties in Pennsylvania and Ashtabula, Columbiana, Geauga, Mahoning, Portage and Trumbull counties in Ohio.

According to Oh-Penn’s “Apprenticeship Score Card,” the initiative has created 12 programs through the first fiscal year with the goal of attaining 27 by Sept. 30. Several companies, however, share in some of the single apprenticeship programs.

Thus far, five apprenticeships have expanded through Labor funding.

Since it took effect Oct. 1, 2015, the grant has helped 45 incumbent workers, helped train 99 others, led to the registration of 43 new apprentices in the manufacturing trades, and has enabled the organization expand its outreach efforts. To date, the Oh-Penn Network has launched 1,246 outreach and education initiatives.

“We’re happy with the progress,” says Jessica Borza, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, a partner in the Oh-Penn Collaborative. “We have many more in the pipeline and we should have more in the fall. We have a lot of companies gearing up.”

The goal through the second year of the program is to register 50 new apprentices, which Borza says will be met. “We should be in good shape,” she says.

Last year, the grants targeted apprenticeship efforts in machining, but by the end of this year, the program has expanded to include apprenticeships in industrial maintenance, Borza says. “We’ll also have companies that are adding employees in machining as well,” she adds.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.