Students from Coventry, Green, Manchester and Springfield local schools interested in engineering skills will benefit from the $1.5 million grant the Portage Lakes Career Center (PLCC) received through Ohio's Straight A Fund.

Students from Coventry, Green, Manchester and Springfield local schools interested in engineering skills will benefit from the $1.5 million grant the Portage Lakes Career Center (PLCC) received through Ohio's Straight A Fund.

The PLCC is part of an eight-school consortium that maintains the United States – and Ohio in particular – face a skills gap. A survey documented that 52 percent of U.S. employers are finding it difficult to fill skilled trade positions that require more than a high school diploma but not a four year degree. The program at the PLCC will offer additional education to high school students and assist with training in the adult education classes.

"The grant is designed to fill the ‘skills gap’ we know exists between the demand for skilled labor and the abilities of the workforce,” PLCC Superintendent Ben Moore said.

The Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaborative (RAMTEC ) is positioning Ohio to be the first state in the United States to offer newly developed industry certifications for industrial maintenance, robotics machining and robotics welding under one umbrella. "RAMTEC is an industry-driven model that will train and certify individuals for these positions and continue the manufacturing rebound we are experiencing locally and throughout the state," said Moore.

The Tri-Rivers Career Center received $14.9 million through Ohio's Straight A Fund. Through this grant, Tri-Rivers will partner with the eight additional career centers to expand and continue the vision of RAMTEC while preparing high school students with the advance manufacturing and engineering skills necessary to fill the skill gap.

Each school in the eight-school consortium received a $1.5 million grant which includes $250,000 for facility renovations. This allows the participating schools to replicate the RAMTEC center first created at Tri-Rivers Career Center.

Moore said the PLCC will create a state-of-art lab that will house nearly $1.2 million of modern robotics and advanced manufacturing training equipment. "The equipment, used in over 90 percent of manufacturing facilities across the state, will enable us to offer our high school students additional certifications in their fields of study (Welding, Engineering, etc.), but will primarily be used for workforce training for adult students," Moore said.

Each of the RAMTEC centers will partner with local employers, from small machine shops to global manufacturers, to customize training to meet their needs and produce a highly skilled workforce with recognized industry certifications.

The grant also includes a fully equipped mobile trailer that will be taken to the associate school districts (Coventry, Green, Manchester and Springfield) to expose students in the middle grades to this new technology and careers in robotics and advanced manufacturing.

The trailer will also benefit local manufacturing companies as it will be used as a mobile training site that can be "taken to manufacturers for incumbent worker training, allowing employers to certify their employees without stopping production," Moore said.

Moore explained the final aspect of the grant would be to partner with post-secondary institutions on articulation agreements that will grant college credit for these certifications, adding value to all students who complete this training and choose to pursue further education.

"In my collaboration with the City of Green, and as a member of the Summit-Medina Workforce Investment Board, I know this skills gap exists and that employers are desperate for a solution,” Moore said. “RAMTEC is the solution, and I am thrilled that PLCC has this opportunity to serve the students and employers of our community.”

Moore will be meeting with Tri-Rivers Career Center to find out about the implementation process. He will also have follow-up meetings with the City of Green, Stark State and the Ohio Board of Regions. Moore said it is "quite a project and undertaking."

The grants were awarded through the Straight A Fund Governing Board and it was the second round of Governor John Kasich's Straight A Fund, part of a $1.6 billion increase in state funding for education over the two year budget cycle. It was created to promote innovative local ideas and programs.

Overall, there were 662 separate requests for the grants, with 73 percent of all Ohio schools requesting money. The PLCC was one of 37 that was awarded a portion of the grant funds.