Friday, November 20th, 2020

Group is disbanding

Tri Star taking over workforce development needs

By William Kincaid

Workforce Development Initiative of West Ohio, a group of economic development o. . .

CELINA - A workforce development organizaion will disband now that a state-of-the-art career technical education center is available at the new Tri Star facility, which opened last year.
Workforce Development Initiative of West Ohio, made up of economic development officials and education partners, will soon cease to exist, according to director Angela Hamberg.
The $25 million, 101,170-
square-foot, two-story Tri Star Career Compact facility on State Route 703 was officially dedicated in September 2019. In addition to housing programs that were once spread across the area in separate facilities, the compact is capable of providing adult vocational education.
"With Tri Star having the facility that it now has and can manage the adult programs on its own, the WDI of West Ohio does not have a purpose any longer," Hamburg said. "It was originally developed to bridge a gap. With the new facility, that gap was bridged."
Officials have yet to submit the necessary paperwork to dissolve the organization but have begun sending remaining funds to Tri Star.
"We have disbursed a majority of the funds … to programs such as train-the-trainer concept, by donating money to Tri Star for adult training," Hamberg said. "(We) then also donated money for scholarships in order for people who are looking to expand their skill set, to be eligible for scholarships to offset the training costs."
The nonprofit organization's revenue comes from the adult education courses it facilitates - welding, machining and robotics - to fill local workforce needs with skilled employees.
Celina school board members at this week's meeting accepted WDI of West Ohio's donations to Tri Star in the amounts of $7,000 for trainer education and $3,000 for adult education robotics, welding and machine trades scholarships.
"Our hardest thing is trying to find adults to teach," Tri Star Director Tim Buschur said about the train-the-trainer education donation from WDI of West Ohio.
Tri Star last year began offering adult education classes in welding, robotics and machining, as well as SERV Safe, a 14-hour food-safety class for workers at operations including restaurants, schools, health care centers, gas stations, campgrounds, parks and other businesses serving food.
"We don't get any federal funding or state funding for adult (education). It's self-sufficient, and that seems to work for us so far," Buschur said.
Tri Star aims to offer affordable adult education classes that help students gain basic skills to get their foot in the door of a new career. Classes are designed for adults who have obligations, such as a full-time job or family.
"We're not going to run classes that run for 1,000 hours or 700 hours. It's going to be the 90-hour courses … getting companies what they want - quick training. Like that welding class. That's only a 90-hour class," Buschur said. "That's a start because that's better than the other people who have no training."
The adult education curriculum, though, will evolve based on the community and taxpayers' demands, Buschur added.
WDI of West Ohio served a crucial role in improving the lives of area adults while at the same time helping companies fill unfilled positions, Buschur said.
"It was a perfect fit because companies would give us input (about their needs)," Buschur said. "We probably had 150 adults do welding alone. It wasn't big time, but it served a purpose."
WDI of West Ohio's roots trace back to 2011 when Hamberg, six weeks into her job as New Bremen's economic development director, was asked to address workforce development issues among companies in the village.
The initiative resulted in the formation of West Central Ohio Workforce Development Initiative, a collaboration involving Tri Star, Upper Valley Career Center, Rhodes State College, Apollo Career Center, Wright State University and other entities working to help manufacturers find skilled labors.
"They were identifying welding was hard to fill as well as machine trades," she said. "In January of 2012 we created and first offered our welding program."  
The organization found success, with its work stretching beyond New Bremen.
"The intention when it first got started was that it would be passed off to another organization that would take off with it, and that didn't happen for those early years so in 2017 we just went ahead and made it its own entity," Hamberg said.
It was renamed the Workforce Development Initiative of West Ohio, a grassroots, nonprofit organization no longer administered through New Bremen's government.
"I was able to, in my spare time as I managed that program, reach out to Mercer County businesses and have that dialogue, and I could promote it in ways that as a village of New Bremen employee I could not," she explained.
It too found success.
"It's about development. You develop your skills and you learn more skills and then you're able to apply for other opportunities," she said. "There were several instances where that secured the opportunity for a person to get a job because they had that training."
A few years later Hamberg found an organization that could indeed carry out the mission of workforce development across Auglaize and Mercer counties - Tri Star Career Compact.
"There's more resources available (today) compared to what was available nine years ago," she said. "We had limited resources, limited ways to get people to understand the connect and that's why we bridged that gap."
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