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EGCC to launch training center

STEUBENVILLE — A technology-driven workforce training center could be up and running in Steubenville by early 2020, Eastern Gateway Community College President Jimmie Bruce said Wednesday.

The Tri-State Gateway to Growth Training Center, which will serve 12 counties in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, is expected to be based in the former Hess building at Sunset and Lovers Lane, Bruce said.

Funding is through the Appalachian Regional Commission, which this week announced $44.4 million in grants through its POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative to expand and diversify the economy in Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities. Over the three-year grant period, ARC said “at least 650 workers or trainees and 120 students will obtain new positions or enhance their current ones, and six businesses will be improved by the training model.”

Eastern Gateway’s grant award totaled $836,332.

“It’s a great thing for the college and the region, I think,” Bruce said.

“Obviously, when you get a notification that you’re getting an $830-some thousand dollar grant, it’s going to be a good day.”

Bruce said training will be offered at the center, though to meet industry needs the programs developed there also can be taken to actual job sites.

“So while it’s being talked about as a regional training center, we’ll be able to use the resources to also provide curriculum packages and certifications that may be done on site at a business or industry, as well as at the center,” he said. “A big part of it is having a curriculum that meets industry’s needs, and some of that may take place at the (job site).”

Bruce said more workers will have access to the tech training and certifications employers are looking for, adding it’s “really all about preparing for and filling in-demand jobs.”

“Obviously, some of this is to make sure we’re prepared for the oil and gas needs that are going to be coming as cracker plants come online (in the surrounding region),” he added. “Some of it will also be to meet current employer needs, like partnering with JSW Steel in Jefferson County, and, working together with industry in Ohio Valley and the Mahoning Valley to make sure we’re in tune with employer needs and providing the kind of skill training and certifications they need to hire people.

“I see it as a partnership with business and industry to make sure trainings are aligned and certifications are aligned so in-demand jobs are filled. In a nutshell, that’s what it’s really all about — to create a center where we could do more of this kind of training.”

Bruce said while they’re hoping to fill the skilled labor void employers have been complaining about, “it’s also about imagining the types of jobs that will be needed two, three or four years down the road as the oil and gas boom (nears) in Monaca and Belmont County.”

“There will be a tremendous boom in the area,” he added. “This is about forecasting and preparing people for those potential jobs.”

He said the program also could lead to jobs for trainers and instructors.

“In a lot of ways, we’re already moving on it,” Bruce said. “After the first of the year we’re hoping to have occupancy of that building and solidify some partnerships, (so) we anticipate things over the next two to three months will really start to move.”

Local lawmakers were pleased with the grant award.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, said “funding will support projects designed to create jobs and spur economic opportunity by investing in broadband expansion, substance abuse recovery, manufacturing, tourism and other industry sectors.

“ARC is unquestionably a vital source of critical funding for important projects in our region, and I thank them for their continued support,” Johnson said.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the POWER grants are a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production. Training could include things like commercial driver’s licenses, National Incident Management System credentials and technical training for jobs in the growing Ohio oil and gas industry, he said.

“When I visited Eastern Gateway Community College this summer, I heard from students and faculty about the need to provide more people with access to the technical training and certification needed to fill the jobs that are available in today’s economy,” he said. “The Tri-State Gateway Growth Training Center will do just that.”

He said the funds will help ensure southeastern Ohioans “have the opportunity to pursue the skills necessary for the jobs available today.”

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