Alex Delaney-Gesing
Features Editor

Lorain County Community College’s push for the submission of a state-wide syndicate of 11 community colleges to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program was approved.

The mechanics of the grant program include a $2 billion initiative authorized by President Barack Obama in 2010 to support the design, development and delivery of manufacturing education and training programs to help workers gain skills necessary to compete for high-demand jobs, according to LCCC President Dr. Roy Church.

The intent of this proficiency model is to promote the job readiness, prior learning assessment, basic skill development, pathways to certificates/degrees, employer involvement, online/hybrid courses, and work-based learning of adult-transitioning learners.

The total amount of funding given to the grant program will be $15 million, with $5 million awarded to LCCC and the remaining $10 million divided between the ten community colleges.

The ten community colleges in collaboration with LCCC on the grant program who will receive allotted base grants of approximately $1 million each include Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Columbus State Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, Eastern Gateway Community College, Lakeland Community College, Owens Community College, James A. Rhodes State College, Sinclair Community College, Stark State College and Zane State College

As head of the grant team, LCCC will lead the first Ohio state-wide grant funded under the TAACCCT program by managing the statewide project, required evaluation and various programs needed to support special initiatives and populations such as veterans, career pathways and workforce system collaborations, according to Church.

The project, known as Ohio TechNet (Ohio Technical Skills Innovation Network) emphasizes re-training primarily transitioning adult learners in the field of advanced manufacturing as well as welding, CNC/machining, industrial maintenance, digital fabrication/industrial automation and occupational safety.

In Ohio and across the nation, workers are being laid off from their long-held jobs. Looking for work in order to support themselves and their family, they come back to school as adult learners after years away in order to earn either a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in a field of high-demand on the job market. But what is often found is the skill sets they have are not applicable to today’s workforce.

“What we want to do is help adults. If you want to go through a two year degree while going part-time, it can take people years,” said Terri Burgess Sandu, director of entrepreneurship innovation institute and executive director for workforce development, who served as head of the TAACCCT grant proposal team. “What we’re looking at with this grant is ‘how do we accelerate the content from those types of programs that people need to get hired and put those up front so people can get hire?”

In Lorain County, high-demand job industries include advanced manufacturing, welding and industrial maintenance. By creating condensed, accelerated programs designed for retraining adult learners in need of acquiring the skills of today’s high-demanding jobs throughout the region and county, Ohio TechNet’s goal includes providing a pathway for workers to thrive in the work industry as well as educationally.

“The reality is today’s jobs are much more high tech than yesterday’s jobs,” Sandu said.

“What we need to know is what are the core requirement of skills for people to fill those jobs, for them to get back into the workforce as fast as they can. You don’t have four years to spend, especially when you’re an adult. But we also want to create that pathway so they can get hired but can still continue on to get their associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in order for them to advance into other higher roles in the work industry.”

In support of the TAACCCT grant, nearly 50 letters of commitment from employers and industries around the state were submitted. These local and statewide companies have pledged to be involved in the curriculum of Ohio TechNet’s program, post paid work internships and learning experience options as well as providing the opportunity to conduct interviews with adult learners who have completed certain degrees.

“At the center of all of this is the partnership with employers,” Sandu said. “There’s really two sides to this equation; transitioning adults who need to get retrained and the partnership with employers.”

The involvement of these employers is key to ensuring the programs will align the focus of training to where there are job openings in  various fields. Companies include General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, Engenetics Aerospace and Lincoln Electric to name a few.

Work to launch the Ohio TechNet program will begin immediately, according to Sandu.
“It’ll take us a couple of months to get the wheels in motion, but in the meantime individuals should definitely keep an eye out for news [about the program].”

“It really is a testament to the college’s leadership in both the state and national push for student success,” Sandu said.