By Amanda Tonoli
Youngstown State University’s Mahoning Valley Innovation and Commercialization center will serve many of the manufacturing field’s educational needs, said Mahoning Valley Manufacturers’ Coalition President Brian Benyo.
Earlier this month, YSU received $2 million to expand its advanced-manufacturing training programs, which will go directly toward the construction of the MVICC.
The award is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s 2017 Assistance to Coal Communities initiative.
The initiative seeks to assist locally driven efforts in regions severely impacted by the declining use of coal through various programs supporting job creation and workforce development.
The money will fund renovation and construction on the Mahoning County’s former minimum-security jail at Commerce Street and Fifth Avenue, downtown, the site of the MVICC. YSU purchased the building from the county for $525,000 to convert into the training center.
The facility is envisioned as a place where high-school and college students, entrepreneurs, engineers, machinists and welders can interact.
This is where Benyo said the magic will happen.
“There will be an emphasis of the facilities and the training and the workplace within as related to manufacturing,” he said. “Various levels of education will be taught by the partners involved with this collaboration at both the higher and lower end of the spectrum.”
The training will include robotics, 3-D printing, CNC machining, welding, mechatronics and more.
CNC machining is the process of using a computer to control machine tools.
Mechatronics is a field that combines electronics with systems, control, computer and mechanical engineering.
Both high-school and college-age students will be able to undergo training in various facets of the manufacturing field.
“There will be training in machining, welding and industrial maintenance,” Benyo said. “I do anticipate there will [also] be a meaningful amount of customized, advanced training meant to service those already employed.”
The facility will serve more than just YSU, Choffin Career and Technical Center, Eastern Gateway Community College and Mahoning County Career and Technical Center students – it will be serving the Youngstown manufacturing community.
“Each individual institution involved as a partner will continue to operate autonomously,” Benyo explained. “The shared collaboration comes down to the equipment within the facility and maybe some of the instructors along the way.”
Another facet the facility will provide is an “incubator-like atmosphere” for local businesses or entrepreneurs to access technology equipment, Benyo continued.
“It may help them know or figure out how to advance,” he said.
Most importantly, Benyo’s part in the collaboration is advancing the level of training offered and competency in all manufacturing partners in the Mahoning Valley.
“The training will bridge the spectrum of high-school level all the way up to a four-year college level, and potentially allow those institutions to work together to allow a more seamless education pathway for students to progress,” Benyo said.
This bridge would allow students in a two-year program to easily move onto a four-year with standardized high-tech training available throughout training at each respective institution.
But the facility is still in its early stages of planning and construction.
Mike Hripko, YSU’s associate vice president for research, said the university hopes to raise $14 million more for the project, a collaboration between YSU and multiple local entities, including the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers’ Coalition, EGCC, Youngstown Business Incubator and the career and technical centers in Youngstown and Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Benyo is optimistic about the capability of the MVICC.
“Truly, [the MVICC] will be a unique asset and benefit for years to come,” he said. “The capabilities we will see are far beyond where we are at today.”