YSU, Eastern Gateway awarded $550,000 in equipment grants

YSU wordmarkYoungstown State University and Eastern Gateway Community College have been awarded nearly $550,000 in state grants that will help improve the region’s manufacturing capacity and workforce.

YSU’s grant for $299,015 will be used to purchase equipment to help the university continue developing a comprehensive curriculum in the rapidly emerging field of additive manufacturing. The $250,000 Eastern Gateway grant will be used to purchase equipment for a regional advance pipeline welding laboratory at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

eastern gateway logo“The addition of this equipment is yet another important step in YSU’s evolution into a premier educational, research and workforce development center for the additive manufacturing industry,” said Ikram Khawaja, YSU interim president.

“Eastern Gateway believes in responding quickly to workforce demands because jobs are needed to grow the local economy and to help area residents have better lives,” said Laura Meeks, president of Eastern Gateway. “With this advance pipeline welding lab project, the college will work in partnership with MCCTC to provide a state-of-the-art training location for good-paying jobs that are currently in high demand.”

Brian Benyo, president of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, added: “I think this is an important example of the power of the partnerships we’ve established and an illustration of what can be accomplished by industry working closely with education and workforce development. Through our collaboration, we were able to attract more resources to our region than if each school pursued the opportunity alone. Additionally, the equipment will be leveraged among several institutions to maximize its use and will serve specific needs expressed by industry, making this a good investment for the state of Ohio.”

The grants from the Ohio Board of Regents are part of the Job Training Capital Improvement Facilities Fund-Workforce Development Equipment and Facility program, designed to help higher education institutions purchase equipment to prepare workers to meet the needs of growing and high-demand industries.

The YSU grant allows the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to purchase 3D printers and scanners, laser cutters, advanced metrology equipment and a sintering furnace, said Brett Conner, associate professor and director of the YSU Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing.

“This equipment will form the foundation of an integrated curriculum at YSU that covers the entire additive manufacturing process,” Conner said.

The grant is the latest in a series of YSU efforts related to additive manufacturing. Earlier this year, YSU opened the Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing, which includes two high-end 3D printers capable of printing metals and ceramics, as well as a series of printers for plastics that are more accessible for all students and the public. A year ago, Siemens Corp. announced that it was awarding $440 million worth of software and training to the YSU STEM college. And, two years ago, YSU played a central role in the federal government’s decision to select downtown Youngstown as the site of the first National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, now called America Makes. YSU students and faculty are regularly engaged in America Makes activities.

Conner said a growing number of companies in Ohio are taking advantage of additive manufacturing technology. The new equipment will allow YSU to continue to develop an additive manufacturing curriculum that includes design, printing and post-processing of parts to meet customer specifications. These three components, Conner said, will result in three broad categories of job skills: drafting and design, equipment operations and maintenance, and post processing.

Under the Eastern Gateway grant, 15 welding stations for the training of intermediate to advanced welders will be established. MCCTC will provide 4,000 square feet of space plus utilities for the lab that will be used by Eastern Gateway and the Career Center students. “This project will strengthen the Mahoning Valley’s position to attract businesses and to advance the local workforce,” Meeks said.

Nationally recognized certifications associated with these credit, non-credit and/or customized workforce training sessions will be an initial contribution from this project in the economic growth of northeastern Ohio. The 2010-2020 Ohio Industry Employment Projection Report predicts a 50 percent increase in oil and gas extraction. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated a 15 percent increase in welding careers for this same period. Using the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and BLS predictions along with input from the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and the Youngstown Regional Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Gateway expects to see an increase in all support activities associated with the drilling and mining of gas and oil for many years to come.

Based upon the September 2012 median wage listed by JobsOhio Network, an entry-level welder could earn $33, 800 a year. Job projections call for 370 new welders, cutters, solderers and brazers jobs over the next decade. According to the Regional Chamber, with the existing oil and gas drilling, manufacturing companies and installation of transportation lines and the availability of certified welders, the Mahoning Valley has a need for 1,200 additional welders of various certifications. Within the next two years that deficit will rise to greater than 2,000 welders.