North Central State College (NCSC) is among the leaders when it comes to innovative thinking and collaboration in workforce skills training and alignment. NCSC’s efforts were born out of a need for partnerships with industry, and in the last few years, the need has been met through new programs and training.
The goal of the Workforce Partnership of North Central Ohio is to keep an open discussion, create collaborative efforts, and utilize the skill sets, facilities, and faculty available at each location, all while reducing competition and confusion for businesses and manufacturing. The Partnership now serves as a central location, administrative hub, and single point of contact for communicating training needs, particularly for the incumbent workforce. According to Executive Director Mary Beth Busch, the Partnership “keeps the lines of communication open between NCSC, the career centers, our Workforce Investment Boards, economic development groups, and all invested in the success of our employers.” Busch will lead the development of this Partnership and help guide the partners in offering services to local businesses. The Partnership arose after the 2009 closing of the General Motors stamping plant in Ontario, OH led to an unwanted competition between NCSC and two of Richland County’s career centers – Pioneer Career and Technology Center and Madison Adult Career Center, as many then-unemployed residents started to seek additional education to improve their career outlook.
Recently the Partnership developed a relationship with Covert Manufacturing, where NCSC is providing classes on site for employees to work toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in mechanical engineering. Busch said the work taking place at NCSC, along with other collaborations, will allow the Partnership to “further develop a number of non-credit packages that will serve as steps on the career pathway via PLA [Prior Learning Assessment] procedures to academic credentials.”
Along with membership in the Partnership, this collaboration has also allowed NCSC to further its workforce development initiatives through a recent grant from the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR). NCSC was awarded an equipment grant to make purchases for a Fab-Lab, a fabrication laboratory that will allow for digital fabrication. The NCSC Fab-Lab will contain various machines and computers, including 3-D rapid prototyping machines, an Epilog laser engraver/cutter, a vinyl printer/cutter, benchtop CNC milling machine, laser scanner, and professional series computer systems.The Fab-Lab will also provide a hands-on environment for students. According to Dr. Gregory Timberlake, academic dean at NCSC, the grant, “combined with our $2.9 million TAACCCT grant (United States Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program), is creating additional opportunities for us to serve businesses in our region and tighten our academic/workforce partnerships at the same time.” The skills needed in the business world are an important component to which NCSC will be aligning learning outcomes with the help of the TAACCCT grant. Through this alignment of outcomes and goals, NCSC will be able to utilize PLA tools to understand where incumbent workers fit along a degree or certificate program path, without making them start from the beginning. This change in the system will allow NCSC to help incumbent workers move into higher skilled areas in a shorter time period, thus serving the workers, their families, and the employer.
Along with this focus on incumbent workers, the NCSC Fab-Lab will also connect the college to local businesses. The Fab-Lab will provide local industry partners with the ability to prototype product improvements and also new products prior to full development. This will impact local start-ups and business development, because entrepreneurs can contact NCSC for prototyping their new products in order to show investors the potential success. Due to the current relationships NCSC holds with the local Small Business Development Center and Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership – housed at NCSC’s Kehoe Center along with the Partnership’s executive director – the Fab-Lab and its goals and priorities are aligned with the current academic programs at NCSC.
NCSC is seeking to not only lead the region in workforce collaboration, but also set an example within Ohio of what one college can accomplish through working with partners to promote job growth for the region.