YSU Perspective: Powering America’s EV Future

By Jennifer Oddo
Vice President, Division of Workforce Education and Innovation, YSU

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – CES 2023, the Consumer Electronics Show, is the world’s largest tech show with 115,000 people across the globe converging on Las Vegas to see the latest in technology innovation. Do not be fooled by its name, though, because CES 2023 was indeed the year of electric everything.

From the debut of Stellantis Ram 1500 EV Truck to Blue Innovations Group’s electric boat to Monarch Tractor’s electric and driver-optional tractor, the emerging world of EV was on full display. EV and ecosystem startups like Lordstown Motors and Indie EV, known companies like Aptiv and Volkswagen, and unique partnerships like the Sony and Honda venture to build the Afeela electric car, truly represented the market diversity within the EV industry.

The theme of CES 2023 was BE IN IT, and the Youngstown/Warren region (aka Voltage Valley) was proudly in it at CES.

Jennifer Oddo

Foxconn EV Systems and Mobility in Harmony showcased the innovation with their partners Lordstown Motors, Indie EV and Monarch Tractor. All of these brands will be manufactured at Foxconn’s facility located in Lordstown.

Aptiv, a global technology company with operations in Warren, demonstrated its hardware and software solutions that enable the future of mobility.

Leaders from Youngstown State University, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Brite Energy Innovators, JobsOhio and other regional partners were there to learn more about the roles we can play in helping to capture the region’s leadership in this new and emerging electric future.

While product innovation was the star of the show, the needs around a supportive infrastructure were a hot topic across many of the panel discussions, specifically, workforce and education. Several discussions focused on workforce and education as one of the most critical infrastructure issues facing the industry. The skills of industry are changing faster than higher education can keep up and new approaches to educating our workforce will be paramount to the success of the industry. The EV workforce will require more digital capabilities, interdisciplinary engineering skills and more middle-skilled workers who will require education beyond a high school degree but not necessarily an advanced degree.

YSU’s former president, Jim Tressel, was a featured speaker at CES, alongside executives from Stellantis, U.S. Department of Energy and Consumer Technology Association. He discussed the important role of YSU’s Division of Workforce Education and Innovation in developing a new educational model to grow our skills-based economy. He also shared insights into the newly announced Foxconn EV Academy Powered by YSU.

The EV Academy is one of the first public/private partnerships designed to holistically address the industry’s emerging workforce needs with integrated training focused on advanced manufacturing, energy storage, battery manufacturing and information technology like 5G, AI and cybersecurity. The goal of the EV Academy is to create an open-source hub that will serve anyone looking to advance into the EV workforce. The EV Academy, leveraging additional community investments from General Motors and Ultium Cells, will launch digitally this spring with the physical site on the Foxconn campus to open contingent upon supply chain considerations.

The investments being made to accelerate America’s leadership in the EV industry are historic. 

Local companies like Foxconn, Ultium and Aptiv may not be known consumer brands, but all of these companies, located right here in Voltage Valley, have a very important part in bringing consumer brands for the EV industry into the homes of every American. These three major companies, combined, are bringing regional investments in the billions and, more important, they are creating jobs, and lots of them, for our next-generation workforce.

As YSU Interim President Dr. Helen Lafferty reminds us, the origin of the word education is about “leading forward” and the key to economic prosperity is an educated workforce. We cannot become the EV Hub of America without academia working alongside industry, without creating greater awareness with our high school students and their parents and guardians, and without community partners working together within the diverse workforce ecosystem.

We all have to lead forth; we all have to BE IN IT to capture the glory and the greatness that is instilled in this great community. How will you choose to BE IN IT?

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.