Posted: 2:10 p.m. Friday, March 13, 2015

Clark State using $2.5M grant to create manufacturing programs


Clark State using $2.5M grant to create manufacturing programs photo
Valco Industries employee Thomas Elam welds a floor grate at the company’s facility on Burt Street in Springfield Thursday. Jeff Guerini/Staff

By Matt Sanctis

Staff Writer


Clark State Community College is using a $2.5 million grant to buy equipment and develop certificate programs that would train workers in key manufacturing areas beginning this fall.

The U.S. Department of Labor grant will focus on five areas of manufacturing, and will also include CNC operations, additive manufacturing and supervisory control and data acquisition, said Mary Benedict, grant project manager at Clark State.

One of the goals will also be to help steer displaced workers toward the new certificate programs and get back into the workforce, she said. The grant will also fund a Career Navigator position, housed at OhioMeansJobs Clark County, to recruit residents who would be a good fit for the program.

“We specifically went out into the community and said, ‘Where are you having the most trouble finding talent,’ ” Benedict said.

Part of the grant will be used to purchase new equipment for the program, while the rest will help develop and revise a curriculum that uses skills students will need on the job like welding and industrial maintenance. Clark State received assistance from several area manufacturers in both Clark and Champaign counties, which provided advice on what equipment to buy and what skills are needed the most, Benedict said.

Valco Industries, a Springfield manufacturer that stamps, cuts and welds metal parts for a variety of products, has worked closely with Clark State since the beginning of the process, said Nichole Metzger, a manufacturing engineer at Valco. The company has about 50 employees but sometimes struggles to find skilled workers like welders, she said.

The lack of skilled workers is the result of several factors, including students who have previously been steered away from manufacturing to the decline of union apprenticeship programs for young workers, among other factors, she said. In recent years, though, there has been a greater push both from government agencies, local companies and colleges like Clark State to provide technical training for area workers, she said.

“We’re always looking for skilled workers,” Metzger said. “There’s such a shortage.”

At Valco, Herman Banks said he was able to earn better pay under a separate 12-hour certificate program to learn welding skills. He said his pay increased after he improved his welding skills by taking courses while at work and practicing his skills in his free time.

Local colleges like Clark State are increasingly taking on the task of making sure local manufacturers have a skilled workforce, said Bill Wolfarth, a training consultant at Valco.

“I won’t say they’re one-stop shopping, but they’re trying to be close,” Wolfarth said of Clark State.

Students will be able to complete the certificate program in two semesters, Benedict said, and can also use the courses to continue toward an associate’s degree.

Complete coverage

The Springfield News-Sun will continue to provide unmatched coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties. The paper spoke to staff at Clark State and local employers to explain how new certificate programs might affect area residents.

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