JACKSON TWP.  Stark State College was one of five regional college campuses to receive a grant from the latest round of Ohio Department of Higher Education’s (ODHE) Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) program. Stark State’s $143,333 portion of the grant will be used to equip a new electrical lab under construction at the Stark State Akron campus.

Outgoing Gov. John Kasich and the legislature approved $8 million in the state capital budget to assist Ohio’s public universities, community colleges and career technical centers to help provide the latest, most up-to-date workforce development training and education. It’s part of an effort to provide a skilled workforce for the in-demand jobs across the state of Ohio.

"The Akron campus is in the construction phase, and it will include an electrical lab in the lower level and we’ll use the grant to buy core electrical items and equipment to support courses such as electrical circuited devices among others," Stark State’s Dean of Engineering Technologies Dr. Donald M. Bal said. "Equipping labs, especially engineering technology labs, is expensive. This grant will help us to provide core needs. The lab will support a variety of career enhancement certificate programs we plan on offering. The certificate programs also support degree programs in the electrical engineering technology area."

Taylor Copeland, grants officer at Stark State, said part of the grant application required data detailing career pathways for students getting training for the short term that would allow students to go onto a one-year certificate or go onto an associate degree for occupations in high demand in the state of Ohio. Career Enhancement Certificates include core cluster of classes from various degrees. Students can use the Enhancement Certificate to build towards an associate degree.

Equipment for the new lab will include items such as PLCs, variable frequency drives, meters that measure voltage and resistant and other core operations electrical lab equipment. Ball said it will be a state-of-the-art electrical lab to support electrical programs and to meet the needs of business and industry on the electrical portion of the industrial maintenance side. The lab on the Akron campus is projected to be ready and open to students by August 2019.

Copeland said one of the goals for the grants is for all five of the schools that received the grants to work together and identify areas where companies and businesses are looking for skilled workers. She said the campus is always looking for ways to collaborate. One example is the different campuses find opportunities to utilize any of the unique labs or equipment each have in place.

"After talking with the regional partners, we highlighted three main industry sectors for the grant including advanced manufacturing, additive manufacturing (3D printing) and health care. We identified the skill sets with input from our business and industry partners," Copeland said.

Copeland and Ball each said that from the vantage point of engineering technology, some of the top jobs targeted for growth in the area include industrial maintenance, CNC and welding among others. Another area is the need for CDL drivers which are in high demand both in the region and nationally.

In addition to employers looking for workers with trade skills, Ball added, "Many employers are looking for workers that have soft skills from their technical employees and employees in general. Skills such as general communications, showing up to work on time, being polite, being able to take notes and dressing appropriately in the workplace are also needed. Over the past several years, we’ve embedded some soft skills into our machining and CNC classes to help reinforce those skills."

Ball said this grant is a wonderful opportunity to purchase much needed items for the new lab.

"Community colleges are not flush with money in their general funds so we need grants like this one to expand and provide training and education in areas that are valuable to employers as well as students," he said.

The other regional campuses receiving the same amount of grant money ($143,333) include Kent State University, The University of Akron, Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) and Lakeland Community College.

Stark State Akron is at 360 Perkins St. in Akron. Classes at the campus will be available in August 2019. To find out more about the engineering technology classes, visit www.starkstate.edu and look for engineering classes.