A look at one of Ohio’s new IRAPs

A Lorain County Community College graduate on a CNC machine. (Photo: LCCC)

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the selected public-private partnerships — several of them led by community colleges or college systems — that would together use $184 million in grants to expand apprenticeships in three high-demand fields: advanced manufacturing, information technology and health care.

Ohio’s Lorain County Community College (LCCC) is the lead applicant for one of those grants. The Ohio Manufacturing Workforce Partnership (OMWP) — which includes Ohio TechNet and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) — will receive a $12 million grant to tackle workforce shortages and skills gaps affecting manufacturing in the state. The partnership aims to use industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs) to upskill 5,000 state residents over the next four years.

“Ohio manufacturers understand that it’s time to change the way we develop talent,” said OMA President Eric Burkland.

Burkland said IRAPs take the best of traditional registered apprenticeships – such as structured on-the-job training, with related classroom instruction, and regularly increasing wages – and give manufacturers the flexibility to determine which skills and outcomes are most important to their long-term success.

“To ensure that these flexible apprenticeships provide high-quality training, each will be tied to a specific industry-recognized credential,” he said.

Good timing

Burkland noted that the DOL opportunity came at the right time for Ohio manufacturers.

“For the last two years, we have been building a system of regional industry-sector partnerships to foster collaboration and resource-sharing among manufacturers and their education and workforce partners,” he said. “It was this systems-level work that prepared us to submit a compelling proposal to the Department of Labor.”

A key element of that system is Ohio TechNet, a consortium of Ohio’s community colleges and other postsecondary education institutions, launched in 2014 with a focus on accelerating the readiness of Ohio’s workforce for manufacturing careers.

Marcia Ballinger, president of LCCC, which leads the Ohio TechNet consortium, emphasized the importance of new forms of industry-educational collaboration.

“Scaling apprenticeships in new and different ways is an innovation that works by providing opportunities for employers to build a workforce to spec, provide blended earn-and-learn models for individuals and fosters redesign of programs at higher education institutions to reduce time and cost to earn a degree and credential,” she said.

Outreach and awareness

OMWP will focus on career pathways in advanced manufacturing with an eye toward technological advances, including Industry 4.0 and cybersecurity. To date, the partnership has secured commitments from Ohio manufacturers to train 2,315 apprentices.

OMA and its industry-sector partnership network will conduct outreach and education to bring industry-recognized apprenticeship opportunities to more manufacturers, while OTN continues to develop innovative and accelerated training models at community colleges, universities and Ohio technical centers.

National partners that are part of OMWP include the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Institute of Metalworking Skills, the American Welding Society and Jobs For the Future.

About the Author

Tracy Green
is vice president for strategic and institutional development at Lorain County Community College in Ohio.